Posts Tagged ‘CD & ME’

Friday Fun With Friends

January 25, 2014

Friday January 24th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

Tonight was another fun night working with long time friends. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I’ve put together a stellar cast of characters that make me laugh and are fun to be around. There are a lot worse ways to make a living, and we all know it. Tonight was a true team effort.

Ken Sevara has booked the comedians at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL for seven years now. He’s a comedian himself, so he understands the process. I’ve become a regular there, and love to work in front of the audiences there. They come to be entertained, and they have always been friendly.

The staff there always treats us like royalty, and if nobody else appreciates it I surely do. It’s an extra perk that doesn’t happen everywhere, and that’s a shame. It happens here, so I look forward to coming back. Dean the owner is into comedy, and the tone has been set from the top on down.

Tonight it was an extra special treat to work with my good friend Jimmy McHugh. The two of us together on one show is hard to beat, and to top it off hosting the show was Brian Hicks. He’s another of Chicago’s best, and doesn’t live far away. The three of us together made it a big night.

The weather was nasty all day, so Jimmy and I rented a car and got a hotel room not far away. I live almost 100 miles one way from Frankfort, and I didn’t want to be dealing with driving home in a snow storm. Jimmy and I are working tomorrow night in Indiana, so this was the right call.

Right before the show started, Tim Slagle walked in. Tim, Ken and I were the original “Jerry’s Kidders” on WLS radio with our friend Jerry Agar. It was nice of Tim to pop in, and I knew we had to find a way to get us all on stage. This was too good of a group in one place not to do that.

I cut my show a few minutes early, and brought up Ken, Tim, Jimmy and Brian for a close out round robin version of “Chicago Style” standup comedy. We each took turns at the microphone, and the audience loved it. The energy in that kind of setting is electric, and we all plugged into it.

The audience got far more than they expected, and everyone had a fantastic experience. I enjoy being able to make things like this happen on the spur of the moment, and it was my call entirely. No matter what problems any of us may have, being on stage together for those few minutes was an escape. It was like we were our own version of the Rat Pack, and the audience came with us.

After our show, we hung around a TV and watched Pat McGann’s debut on David Letterman. I was delighted that there was a crowd there to support, and we were all rooting for him to knock it out of the park. He did exactly that, and spontaneous applause broke out when his set was done.

I’m telling you, that guy has got it. He looked completely at home, and was able to get several applause breaks throughout his set. David Letterman came over to him after he was done and had very complimentary things to say before they went to the commercials. I’d say he hit a home run.

There wasn’t any jealousy among the group of us watching, and I thought it was a great tribute to the character of the people in the room. Pat deserved the shot, and he nailed it. Good for him. I couldn’t be happier for him, or more pleased to have gotten to perform with such a classy bunch.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He's a great pro and an even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He’s a great pro and an even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. www.funnybrian.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. http://www.funnybrian.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. http://www.timslagle.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his network TV debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. Way to go! http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Peer Pleasure

January 12, 2014

Friday January 10th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

It’s no secret that if anyone wants to change their results they must first change their method of doing things. That’s been my entire life mission of late, and boy is it working – and well. I feel a dramatic and dynamic change coming over me, and I really like it. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

I am making correct decisions the vast majority of the time these days, and tonight was a prime example. I originally had a comedy show booked near Rockford, IL, but the show was cancelled due to icy roads and bad weather. Actually they said it was ‘postponed’, but I’m still out money.

Whether it ever gets rescheduled is debatable, but that’s not the point. I had a sudden night off, and I had a choice to make. Do I stay home and mope around, or do I get in the car and go out to visit someone in the Chicago area? I’m normally not a social butterfly at all, especially in sloppy weather. I could have easily stayed home and done el-zilcho, but I felt I needed to take action.

I saw a mention online that Jimmie Walker of ‘Good Times’ was performing tonight at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL along with my friend Todd Link. Todd opens for Jimmie regularly, and it’s a great gig for him. I hadn’t seen him in a while so even though it was almost 100 miles one way, I got in the car and started driving in the sleet. Something told me that was the correct destination.

The roads weren’t horrible, but they were a bit of a concern. I slid around on the ice a little, but nothing that would make me turn around and go home. I’ve driven in winter conditions my entire life so it’s no big deal. I’d made up my mind I was going to go, and that was it. I was committed.

The show started at 8, and I arrived around 9. Jimmie was already on stage, but I saw Todd and comedian Ken Sevara who books the club. They reacted like the Pope had just arrived, and that’s extremely flattering. It’s great to feel welcomed, and I was. That alone made the drive worth it.

I work maybe once a year at CD & ME, and I’ll be there again January 24th. The staff there has always treated me like royalty, and they did again tonight. One of the owners Dean came over to shake my hand immediately, and that doesn’t happen often with club owners. It really felt good.

The vibe in there was wonderful, and had I decided on staying home I’d have missed it all. I’m glad I made the choice to go, and I enjoyed every minute of it. These are the kinds of evenings to remember, and years from now nobody will ever remember that I didn’t perform or that I had to drive in less than ideal conditions. There were a lot of reasons to say no, but I’m glad I said yes.

Another person who decided to come and hang out for the night was Ken Stevens, owner of the comedy club ‘Riddles’. He and Ken Sevara are long time friends, and he has also booked Jimmie several times as well. He has had some severe health issues of late himself and is fighting cancer. He spent a lot of time in the hospital, and by all accounts went through some very rough patches.

I hadn’t seen Ken in a while, but other than dropping some weight he looked and sounded very good. I told him how much we were all rooting for him as we followed updates on Facebook that his sister made during his ordeal. It was inspirational to hear of how he got through it, and I have not had the chance to see him in person to tell him. That was another reason I was glad I came.

One of the true treats of the standup comedy experience is getting a chance to hang with other comedians after the show. Most of us live for it, and other than the shows themselves it’s one of the highlights of our entire lives. Anyone who has been a full time road warrior has memories of sitting in a diner with other comics until the wee hours of the morning making each other laugh.

It’s a much higher and purer level than even the shows themselves, as we are the best audience of anyone. We’re all in the same boat and have a lot of shared experiences and common points of reference already in place that don’t need to be explained. Laughter between comedians is really sweet, and very often getting them to laugh means more than getting laughs from paid audiences.

After the show tonight we got a chance to hang out in the club after everyone left, and it was an absolutely delightful experience. Jimmie, Ken Sevara, Ken’s wife Lori, Todd, Ken Stevens, club owner Dean and I all sat around a big round table and experienced the magic of why we do this.

Everyone at that table was in or around the business, and the stories started flying and laughter was coming from all directions. That particular group dynamic was absolutely perfect, and I saw that everyone was enjoying every second. Times like this just don’t happen as often as they used to, and we all knew it. We could all let our guards down, and be ourselves. Everyone enjoyed it.

I have nothing but respect for everyone at that table. I’ve known them all for years, and they’ve paid their dues and then some. Ken Sevara and Lori lived in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, and were in the boom years of comedy out there. They knew Jimmie from those days, and I have nothing but respect for him as well. That guy is a true road warrior, and continues to work after all this time.

He said that he has been on TV every single day somewhere for 45 years, and that’s impressive to the point of awe. Even more impressive is that he still works at the craft of standup comedy. It isn’t easy, but he still adds new material and works at it when he could easily just phone it all in.

Todd Link is another guy I respect very much. We met in Salt Lake City when I lived there and bonded instantly because we’re both huge sports fans to the point of obsession. He knows former NBA player Tom Tolbert pretty well, and we’ve just always stayed in contact. He’s a funny guy, and we’d love to eventually start a group of comedians that love sports and focus on that market.

Todd is based out of Nashville, where he takes care of his father who needs his help. That takes a lot of time and effort, and I commend Todd for making that difficult choice. It’s never the easy road to be selfless and care for someone else before one’s own needs, but Todd does exactly that. These are life decisions far more than just career ones, and we all have to make them at times.

Sitting at that table made me extremely proud to have spent my life in service of others making strangers laugh, and I felt completely at home in everyone’s company. Not only that, I savored it because I knew all the sacrifices everyone else had made to be there as well. The audience saw a fantastic show on stage from Jimmie, Todd and Ken, but there was an even better one afterward.

I’m going to be performing at CD & ME in two weeks with my friend Jimmy McHugh. That’s another long time comedy road warrior I love as a friend and respect greatly as an act. If you can, come see us. http://www.cdandme.com. I made a fantastic choice tonight. I am finally smartening up.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I'll be headlining there on Janary 24th. www.cdandme.com.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I’ll be headlining there on Janary 24th. http://www.cdandme.com.

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that?

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that? http://www.dynomitejj.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn't think that was possible. He's also a very funny comedian. www.jokertodd.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn’t think that was possible. He’s also a very funny comedian. http://www.jokertodd.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called 'Fly By Night'. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. http://www.kensevara.com.

New Old Material

February 3, 2013

Friday February 1st, 2013 – Frankfort, IL

   Comedians and non comedians alike are constantly obsessed with who has ‘new material’, and it’s a waste of time. It’s natural to want to grow and expand, but there first needs to be rock solid old material on which to build. That takes years of work, and it’s a lot harder than it may appear.

Comedians of the Vaudeville era would often do virtually the same act for forty and fifty years, even though that might be a little obsessive in the other direction for today’s needs. What I mean by getting ‘old’ material is having pieces that are polished and can be performed automatically in any situation without having to think about them. Those don’t come overnight to any performer.

Standup comedy is not natural in that nobody gets up in the morning and plans what they’ll say to their spouse or their boss or the people at work. Conversation is spontaneous. Standup comedy gives the ILLUSION of one just making up one funny line after the next on cue without effort.

Real life just doesn’t work like that, even though when it’s done well standup comedy gives the false impression it does. A good comedian makes it look effortless when in fact it’s anything but. The public doesn’t know that and doesn’t care, but smart eyes and ears know comedy is a craft.

I performed with Mike Preston tonight at ‘CD & ME’ in Frankfort, IL. That’s a gig Ken Sevara has been booking for several years now, and although it’s always fun there are a lot of regulars in the audience. They only do comedy seasonally, and Ken likes to use the same core group of acts.

I totally get what Ken is doing, and it makes perfect sense. It’s not a comedy club per se, and to constantly bring in new people for a one night part time gig would be virtually impossible. It’s an economics thing, and the people he brings in are very good acts. It’s been a win/win for all of us.

That being said, I like to purposely switch my set around in situations like this because I know there will be a certain amount of people who will have seen me before and I like to make it fresh for both them and me. I might do some of the same bits, but I change the order and add new ones whenever possible. When I can keep them on guard it’s good for everyone as it keeps us all alert.

There’s no law that says I have to do that, and some comedians do the exact same jokes they’ll always do in the exact same order, even though they know they’ve done it at the exact same club. There gets to be a fine line between consistency and laziness, and it takes effort to identify where it is. Some acts will walk through their set to get the money. I’ve always tried to be a bit deeper.

I like to know where I am and who may or may not have seen me before. There are people who like to see the same bits again, and I’m to the point where I get requests from regulars to do some bits like ‘Doris The Porkasaurus’ or ‘The Greyhound Bus’. When asked, I’ll always try to oblige.

Tonight I went back into my archives and did some material I haven’t done in years. I can’t say why, but I knew it would work so I did it. And it did. A group who has seen me often came up to me after the show and said how much they enjoyed all of my ‘new’ material. If they only knew.