Posts Tagged ‘Caryn Ruby’

My Favorite Venue

July 23, 2014

Saturday July 19th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

Ahhh…nothing is as thoroughly refreshing as an oasis in the desert. Tonight I was booked for a pair of shows at my all time favorite performance venue which is The Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. I love everything about the place, and I’d work there anytime.

The stage is enormous, the sound and lights are always perfect, and the hometown audience is primed. I can talk to them like nowhere else, because I grew up in Milwaukee and know exactly what buttons to push. I can use references I can’t use anywhere else, and it is total creative bliss.

Another reason I like working there is the friendly staff. Bob Rech is in charge, and everybody from him on down treats me like a big star. I treat them well too, but I do that everywhere. That’s how I think everyone should be, but it doesn’t always go down that way. I feel totally at home.

Tonight I wasn’t hired to do my “Schlitz Happened!” show about growing up in Milwaukee, so I kept it separate and just did my regular standup comedy show. I have enough material to divide it up, and I have always been one to switch things around depending on the individual audience.

I’m rarely if ever nervous before any show, but tonight I admit there was a knot in my stomach because my sister Tammy and her husband Jake came out to see the early show. I had a difficult time coming up with the last time Tammy saw me, and it has to be more than 25 years. Jake had never seen me perform ever, and I wanted to have a good show just so they’d have a good time.

We went out for dinner before the show, and met up with my cousin Wendy and her childhood friend Mary Jo. Tammy and Wendy had never met, and I was a nervous host there too because I wanted it to go well. The last thing I needed would be any family tension, but there wasn’t a bit.

Wendy is a super sweetheart, and has supported me for years. She and Tammy were fine, and we had a relaxing meal before they went to gamble for a while before the show. Caryn Ruby was the opening act, and she joined us for dinner. I didn’t expect any problems from her, and didn’t have any. All of us got along, and it went exactly how it was supposed to go. I was SO relieved.

The early show audience wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. Summer shows are always light, and the 7pm starting time can be a factor too. I was still able to get them going, but I have had much better audiences. Tammy and Jake thought it was great, and so did Wendy. That’s the main concern I had, and I’m always ultra hard on myself and set high standards. I want to please.

Of course the second show was a whole lot better, but that’s how it usually goes. When there’s anybody that need to be impressed, the show rarely delivers – at least in my mind. When it’s just another show with nobody I know in the crowd, that’s when it rocks. Those people were laughers and we all had a blast. When that room is rocking, there isn’t any place like it. I adore that space.

If it were up to me, I would work there 52 weeks a year. I would perform “Schlitz Happened!” and build my legend like Danny Gans did at his theatre in The Mirage in Las Vegas. It doesn’t even have to be in the Northern Lights Theatre, even though I fit perfectly there. A smaller room would be fine, as long as the hot audiences keep showing up. I was born to work there. Literally.

I can't think of a more ideal venue for standup comedy than Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. It's my favorite stage of all time.

I can’t think of a more ideal venue for standup comedy than Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. It’s my favorite venue.


A Sour Pickle

March 22, 2014

Thursday March 20th, 2014 – Mystery Small Town Location in Illinois

I’m in a pickle, and it’s a big old sour one. I really enjoy performing, and always have. I enjoy getting an income too. I have almost always jumped at any chance I ever got to perform, even if it happened to be in less than ideal conditions or subpar pay. I always thought it was better to get on stage and practice my craft than not do anything and let it rot. Those days are officially over.

There comes a point where there’s nothing to gain from doing tiny little gigs in tiny little towns for tiny little money. The time and effort it takes to get there, do the show and get back no longer makes it worth my while. Not only that, the drain it puts on the self esteem really kills the deal.

Tonight I had one of those gigs in a town I’m not going to mention nor will I name the booking agent that sent me there. I have no issues with anyone but myself here, so that’s where I’m going to point all fingers. In a way it’s a major positive, as I have graduated past these kinds of shows.

The booker in question and I have a very good relationship. This person asked if I’d like to do a show in a small town approximately 180 miles from Chicago. The money wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. But on a Thursday night when I had nothing to do I said yes as I usually do when things like this come up. On paper it would be a breeze, and I would sleep in my own bed.

I had the option of doing all the time myself, or bringing an opener. I like to give people a shot whenever I can, so I asked Caryn Ruby if she wanted to come along. Caryn is trying very hard to gain road experience, and she asked if I ever had a chance for her to tag along if she could do it.

I have an ever growing list of people like that – mostly former students – and that’s yet another reason I take gigs like this. They don’t float my boat like they used to, but if I take someone with me that’s excited just to be there it gives me a charge in return. Their energy helps me endure it.

Caryn is always very professional, and knows how valuable of an experience it is to be able to get in front of a real audience – even if it’s a small one. She had her chance tonight, and it was as small an audience as I’d care to have. There were a total of 14 people, and I think a few of those worked at the sports bar where the show was held. This is just not what I need to be doing now.

March Madness basketball killed the comedy show, but since it’s a sports bar one would think the person would realize that and now schedule a comedy show. I didn’t think about it from my end, but that’s not my job. I don’t own a sports bar. I’m not pointing fingers, but it does add up.

There was a separate room in said sports bar that holds around fifty, and we did the show under bad lighting with no stage. We stood in front of three dart boards, and people had to walk right in front of us if they had to use the bathroom – which almost all of the 14 people did at some point.

It was embarrassing, humiliating and not fun whatsoever. I had to do more than a full hour time wise, and at the end of the night the owner and crowd were thrilled. I did get my pay, but the ride home was hollow and unfulfilled. Caryn was happy, but I was miserable. It sucked out my soul.

Caryn could see I was less than thrilled, and started to tell me all the good things about the gig and how much fun she had. I appreciated her effort, but I wish she would have just kept quiet to let me brood or bring up another subject. Trying to salvage this situation was not going to work.

Again, I’m not angry at anyone but myself – and I’m not even angry at myself. I’m just not in the same mindset I’ve been in for decades when I would just suck it up and drive home and hope to come back another day. I’ve reached the point of not wanting to come back at all. I’m over it.

I have done too many nights exactly like this in too many small towns over too many years to count, and I have reached my limit. Driving roughly 400 miles to entertain roughly 14 people is just that – rough. It’s surely not smart from an economical standpoint, and I surely don’t need it for the experience. I have more than enough of that, so there’s no reason for me to even be here.

Caryn popped for dinner, which was all you can eat soup and salad at a truck stop just outside of town. I have eaten in thousands of places like that in my life, and it was just ok. Sometimes it can make an entire trip to discover some hidden jewel of a restaurant in a secluded location, but tonight wasn’t it. It was run of the mill chicken soup and bowls of lettuce served by a teenager.

I looked around at the locals eating there with us, and I saw absolutely zero spark whatsoever in any of their eyes. They all looked like lost zombies having a little snack before going back out on their hunt for brains. They weren’t bad people, but I didn’t feel a kinship with them and me.

The couple that owned the sports bar were very nice people as well. They had done about half a dozen shows there in the past, and of course “they were all packed full except tonight.” I have to believe I have heard that phrase or variations thereof more than any other living performer.

“Hey, you should have been here last week,” or “I don’t know what happened – we promoted it all over town” or any number of other last minute band aid excuses just doesn’t cut it anymore. It lets me know that I no longer need to be doing these kinds of shows, even if it means working at a car wash or bagging groceries. Doing it like this isn’t working, and it’s destroying me inside.

I have feelings and an ego like every performer, but nights like this in places like this are just what the doctor ordered to rip all that out of the socket and leave me feeling like a cow that has been completely milked out. I’m much better than this, and there’s no reason for me to continue saying yes to shows like this. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, and it kicked my keester.

People talking through the show and walking back and forth in front of me to the bathroom is just plain disrespectful. I don’t think they even realized it, so I did not take it personally. I gave them my best show, and at the end of the night they all loved it – but at what cost? My dignity.

I took my money and thanked the owners, and I truly wish them nothing but the best not only in business but in life. They seemed like nice people, I just can’t afford to come back here again. Even if it was ‘sold out’, it’s what – fifty? Sixty? Easy money does not exist. This was painful.

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won't happen again.

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won’t happen there again.

Boxcars Bonanza

January 10, 2014

Wednesday January 8th, 2014 – Clinton, WI

I had my first comedy show of 2014 tonight, and it was as close to perfection as it gets in every way and on every level. If it were like this every night, I’d have all my needs met and then some. It painfully isn’t, so I savored every second. It was a clinic on how a comedy show should work.

Everyone involved in the show did their jobs correctly, and the results were outstanding. It was a prime example of how good standup comedy can be when it works well, both as a business and a show. Everyone had fun, and there was enough money to go around at the end of the evening.

Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog” is a comedian from Iowa that lived in Chicago for a long time. He’s always been able to find out of the way venues that have not tried comedy, and I commend him for his resourcefulness. Some of his venues are brutal, but sometimes they’re hot.

He found a true gem in Clinton, WI at a place called ‘Boxcars Pub & Grub’. I’ve worked there three times now, and every time has been better than the last. That’s due to the owner named Tim Pogorelski. He truly loves comedy and was in a band for years so he understands entertainment.

I can’t say enough good things about Tim or the venue, and he absolutely does it right. He does his shows on the first Wednesday of the month, and keeps them to once a month to make them a special event. He has a side room that’s set up with good sound and lighting that seats about 60.

That’s enough seats to make it worth his while, but also few enough so it always sells out. It’s a pleasure to work in a sold out room, and all the posters in the place had ‘SOLD OUT’ over my picture. How many times have I seen THAT in my career? Not nearly as many as I’d have liked.

Jer Dog trusts me to bring along any opening acts I may care to, or he said I could do all of the time and take all the money. That’s a great option, but I wanted to give stage time to people that I like and respect, and know could use it in front of a hot audience. I’m happy to share the wealth.

I chose to have two acts tonight, and both of them knocked it out of the park. Trevor Burke was first up, and he nailed it. He’s 12 years old, and his dad Joe had asked if I could get Trevor up on stage whenever possible. I’m always happy to help, and it was a fun adventure for them to have a show – on a school night no less. How cool would it have been for me to do comedy at that age?

Next up was Caryn Ruby. Caryn works as hard as anyone I know to polish her chops as both a comedienne and an actress. She lived in LA for years, but is back here helping her father with his real estate business. She really appreciates the stage time, and I like working with her whenever I can. She handles her business impeccably, and I learn from her every time we talk. It’s win/win.

The show was at 7:30, and that meant we were done just after 9pm. The crowd was as red hot as I remembered, and I hosted the show and brought up special guests Trevor and Caryn. That’s how they do it in Boston, and I always liked that format. Tim was all for it, and it was a big hit.

Absolutely everyone was happy at the end of the night, and we all got paid an amount we could live with – especially for a Wednesday night in January. This was a super way to kick off 2014.

Few would believe that Boxcars Pub &  Grub in Clinton, WI would have one of the best one nighter comedy shows around, but it totally does. Owner Tim Pogorelski is on the ball, and does it right.

Few would believe that Boxcars Pub & Grub in Clinton, WI would have one of the best one nighter comedy shows around, but it totally does. Owner Tim Pogorelski is on the ball, and does everything right. What a gig!

Jeremy Danley aka "The Mighty Jer Dog" is a comedian who finds venues to promote shows. He's a hustler, but in the best possible way. He's a terrific marketer, and I love working with him and for him anytime.

Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog” is a comedian who finds his own venues to promote shows. He’s a hustler, and in the best possible way. He’s a terrific marketer, and I love working with and for him anytime.

12 year old comedy sensation Trevor Burke got to do comedy on a school night. How many 12 year olds can say THAT? He did great too. I'll be driving his limo some day - hopefully soon.

12 year old comedy sensation Trevor Burke got to do comedy on a school night. How many 12 year olds can say THAT? He did great too. I’ll be driving his limo some day – hopefully soon.

Caryn Ruby was on the show too. She works as hard at the business as anyone I've met in a long time. Her success is overdue, but on the way.

Caryn Ruby was on the show too. She works as hard at the business as anyone I know. Her national success is overdue, but on the way. Watch for her.