Posts Tagged ‘celebrity’

Reflections On Celebrity

September 24, 2013

Monday September 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from hanging out with Bob Uecker yesterday, but I realize I’m a ways away from being the big star he is and still have to worry about paying bills every month. Most people never come close to such an elite level of success, and he is the exception rather than the rule.

One thing that jumped out with Bob and every one of the other celebrities I’ve ever met is that they are still people and have real people problems and concerns. They might be a little different than most, but nobody’s life is without any glitches. Bob Uecker has problems just as we all do.

Everyone in that stadium knows who he is, and in the city too. Milwaukee is his home town as it is mine, and that comes with a lot of pressure most people never have to encounter. I feel it on a much smaller level whenever I work a comedy club. There is an entire staff of managers, wait staff, bartenders, ticket takers, dish washers and who knows who else that all know me by name.

Try as I might, it’s impossible to remember everyone’s name and that can be embarrassing as hell when someone comes up and greets me by name when I haven’t seen them in a year and am working at a new place every week with an entirely new cast of characters. It’s mind boggling.

Bob Uecker or any other truly big time celebrity can’t go anywhere without getting mobbed by strangers whether they want it or not. Everyone has moods, and what if one just doesn’t feel like talking on a given day? Then it gets out the celebrity is hard to deal with and aloof. It isn’t fair.

But who said life was fair? It never has been, and never will be. Most people don’t get a statue built in their home town either. Bob Uecker did, and he was alive to see it. Most times that never happens. What good is it to have a statue erected years after someone is dead? His is a rare case.

Another thing Bob Uecker has going for him is the right personality to be a celebrity. He has a quick wit and easygoing demeanor, but I’m sure there are days when he doesn’t feel like being a jokester. I’ve heard stories of people saying he wasn’t ‘that guy’, but I can see why. He’s human.

I happened to catch him on the right day, and he was absolutely fabulous. I will remember it as long as I live, and I’m sure he’s had moments like that with thousands of others. How many of us have that kind of clout? Not a lot. That’s why they’re celebrities. It’s a different world altogether.

Some are made for that world, and spend their entire lives there even though it’s very rare. Bob Uecker has been there since the 1970s, and has cemented himself into the hearts of America. His place is well deserved, but there aren’t many openings. Everyone else has to fight for the scraps.

Others get to that world, but only for a little while. I bet it isn’t hard to find Vanilla Ice or M.C. Hammer’s home phone numbers these days. They had their respective runs, but they’re over with no signs of returning. Then there are those who never get there at all. That would be most of us.

What hit me today the hardest was that in reality I made this happen. I pictured in my mind that I wanted to meet Bob Uecker, and I did what I needed to do to make it a reality. On a larger scale I should be able to do the same with a legitimate comedy career, right? Why has it been so hard?

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can't either.

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can’t either.

Meeting Bob Uecker

September 22, 2013

Saturday September 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I have always admired Bob Uecker. I think he’s one of the absolute funniest humans of our time or any other time, and his multi faceted career of long lasting duration is about as impressive as it gets. He has long surpassed entertainment and is now part of American pop culture. Who hasn’t heard of ‘Uecker seats’? It’s part of our lexicon.

For whatever reason, people like to ask comedians who they think is funny. I’ve gotten that for as long as I’ve been a comedian – and that’s a long time. I don’t know why that should matter to anyone, but apparently it does. I’m a fan of the business and a student of the game, so I like a lot of different people for different reasons and many of those people are not known to the masses.

Anyone not in the business wouldn’t care about those reasons, and I totally get it. It’s an inner circle thing, and nothing is more boring than listening to someone prattle on with shop talk when they’re not in the same business. What the masses always want to hear are names of the famous.

I’ve been very lucky in my time to have either worked or crossed paths with some of the most famous comedians of the modern era including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and that’s not nearly a full list.

I don’t say this to brag, but I’ve been around the block a few times and crossing paths with all kinds of people goes with the territory. I could throw out hundreds of names nobody would care about except me and the people themselves, but that doesn’t capture imagintion like fame does.

Everyone always wants to know “what they’re like”. They’re people, and people are people on all levels. Some are nicer than others, and depending on the day and time you meet them they’re exactly like people are. I’ve rarely been in awe of meeting anyone famous for that exact reason.

As a result, my meetings with celebrities have traditionally gone very smoothly. I’ve treated all of them like people, and that’s how they responded. Only a very few times have I ever been even the slightest bit star struck, and even then in the end it turned out well. Again, they’re just people.

The Holy Trinity of funny people on my personal hero list that I’ve always wanted to meet are (in no particular order) Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I did get my chance to meet Rodney and George, and both were not only extremely warm and gracious but I also was able to make them laugh. The thrill of having that happen will stay with me the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I am finally going to get my chance to meet Bob Uecker thanks to my friend Drew Olson. Drew was the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for years, and he’s said in the past he’d gladly make it happen. I’ve never liked asking for favors, but this time I did.

The last game of the season is tomorrow, and the Brewers are out of the playoff picture. I don’t like to bother people, but all I want is to shake Bob’s hand and tell him how much I admire what he has accomplished and what a fan I am of his work on so many levels. It would mean a lot, and if I would happen to be able to make him laugh even once it would make my year. Moments like this are what life is all about. I just hope I don’t stumble and stammer and make an ass of myself.

The great Bob Uecker. Thanks to my friend Drew Olson, I get to meet one of my all time heroes tomorrow!

The great Bob Uecker. One of the funniest humans or our time or any other time.

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of 'The D-List' on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of ‘The D-List’ on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Viva Tom Wilson!

May 12, 2013

Saturday May 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the briefest words of encouragement can really make a difference. Today I received an email from Tom Wilson, and it really cheered me up. Tom is a hilarious comedian and also an outstanding actor. Unfortunately, most people only know him as ‘Biff Tannen’ of the Back to the Future movies. While that was a tremendous career break, it is by far not all of what Tom does.

   I had a chance to work with him several years ago at Zanies in Chicago, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He wasn’t pretentious or aloof or anything other than a fellow comic out there trying to make a living. He was very approachable, and we enjoyed our week together.

   Whenever I’ve been around ‘celebrity types’, I have always gone out of my way to not jump in their face and try to buddy up to them and be their false friend. I’m sure they get that to the point of nausea, so I try to keep my distance and if they want to talk I let them take the lead. I’m sure it isn’t the smartest business move, but to me they’re people first. That’s how I’d like to be treated.

   As the week with Tom went on, I felt we were hitting it off pretty well so I decided to bring up the whole Back to the Future experience. I imagined (correctly as it turns out) that he’s as sick as sick can be of talking about it, so I brought it up very delicately. I politely asked if he would care to talk about it, and if he didn’t want to I would totally understand. He graciously said he would.

   His is a situation that’s very unique. He was a comedian in the ‘80s during the boom years, and landed a hefty role in a movie. Not only that, it was one of the biggest movies not of the year but the decade. Not only that, there were not one but two successful sequels. On paper, it would be a dream come true for any comedian of that era – of which I was one too. In reality, not so much.

   The first thing everyone assumes dead wrongly is that because a person is in a film he or she is automatically rich forever. Not true. Yes, Tom was paid for his role but that money is long gone and there isn’t an endless supply of royalty checks that show up in his mailbox. He was an actor.

   He didn’t write or direct any of the films, and was basically an employee like a ball player is an employee of the team he plays for. They get paid too, but it’s the same thing. When the money is gone – it’s gone. Baseball players from 1985 are not still getting paid for games they played then.

   The other thing Tom has had to deal with is the uniqueness of the iconic character he played. It was a fantastic role and he totally nailed it, but he said every day of his life no matter where he is he has to hear “Hellooo, McFLY” from 99.9% of everyone he meets. After a while it gets to be a pain in the Flux Capacitor, and I totally understand. I can see where it would be a hideous curse.

   To his credit, Tom is such a class guy he says he feels he owes fans of the movie their moment with him so he plays along whenever he can. I consider myself very accommodating to fans that approach me, but Tom is at a whole other level. He gets it every single day of his life and has for decades. No matter how nice anyone is, I can see it becoming pure torture. Tom handles it well.

   If you’ve never seen Tom’s comedy act, I urge you to do so. He has an outstanding way to deal with the whole Biff thing by doing a funny song about it right up front. It explains everything to the audience, and then he’s free to just be funny – which he totally is. www.tomwilsonusa.com is his website and you can follow him on Twitter @TomWilsonUSA. He’s much more than his role as Biff Tannen- even though it was a stellar one. People like Tom make me proud to be a comic.