Posts Tagged ‘comedian’

The Uphill Journey

November 20, 2013

Tuesday November 19th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I have a full week of quality work this week, and I couldn’t be happier. This is how every week used to be, and it was like that for so long I got used to it and assumed it would never end. That’s pretty stupid, but I wasn’t the only one. There are a lot of road comics in the same sinking boat.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay booked every week, and less and less comedians are doing it. I personally know comedians who have been at it longer than I have and have more TV credits and they’re working less than I am. It’s getting rough out there, and having a steady run is sweet.

November has been pleasantly busy, and I have some better paying work lined up in December with a run of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee along with a few holiday parties that have come up lately. Hopefully a few more will pop up, and they just might.

People book their parties late, and some companies even postpone until January. My January is looking ok, but after that it’s a snow white calendar. That’s never good, but something will come up as it always does. I just wish I could snag a stretch of high paid work that would last a while.

A radio gig would be great, and I’ve been pushing that of late. Art Bell has quit his new show on XM Sirius apparently, and word has it they are looking for a replacement. I know I could hit a home run with a gig like that, but I have to convince someone at Sirius. My old radio ally Kipper McGee happens to know a few people over there, and said he’d at least find out what he could.

The point is that the process of looking for work and keeping income flowing inward is never ending. The last several weeks have been good, as is this week. Next week isn’t so hot, and so it goes. Months are like that and so are years. After it’s all added up, self employment is unstable.

Tonight’s assignment was hosting the ’10 Comedians for $10’ show at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. It’s a lot like the Rising Star Showcase at the Chicago Zanies in that there are a lot of acts trying to work their way up the ranks and make it to that elusive ‘next level’. Not all do it.

It’s not always a matter of talent either. It’s a giant numbers game, and there are only so many spots available. The supply greatly outnumbers the demand, and it becomes a log jam. I’ve been lucky to have been on the right end of this particular version of it, but it’s a game I play as well.

A lot of rejection is involved in this game, so I always try to go out of my way to be friendly to the people showcasing. I give them a larger than life stellar introduction, and get the audience to focus on the stage as much as possible. Not every host does that, and it makes the acts feel good.

It’s really not all that difficult to treat people with respect, and I always find it worth the effort. It’s exactly how I’d like to be treated, but too often am not. It’s the old Golden Rule in action and living proof being nice can make a tangible difference. I find it important to set a good example.

It’s funny how the showcasers look at me like I have some kind of power because I’m ‘in’ with Zanies. I’m out there struggling week to week just like them, just on a different level. I hope they aren’t thinking it gets any easier, as it never does. An entertainer’s journey always travels uphill.

The entertainer's road always travels uphill.

The entertainer’s road always travels uphill.

Afraid To Pee

November 5, 2013

Sunday November 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Still no passing of my kidney stone, and it feels like I’m waiting for the royal baby to be born. I totally thought this would be over with by now. At this point I have heard so many horror stories I’m afraid to pee. Everyone I know who has ever had one has told me in detail how it played out.

I’m hearing horrific accounts of unbearable pain, free flowing blood and passing out, and quite frankly it’s scaring me half to death. I know that little bastard is in there somewhere as I can feel it, but for some reason it’s just refusing to leave. The doctor said it could be up to a week of this.

But what if it doesn’t pass in a week? I can’t afford another surgery, but I also can’t keep living in the pain I’m in. My drugs are running out, and none of the prescriptions have refills. I need the whole thing to be history, but that’s never how life works. I have no say in the matter. It’s nature.

I hadn’t taken any painkillers in a long time, and I’d forgotten how they clamp down on the old bowel plumbing. When I woke up today, I felt a pain on my other side and for a second I thought I had another kidney stone. It turns out I was having a sewage backup, and I needed some relief.

I must have sat on the crapper a good 45 minutes, and it felt like I was trying to pass a football – but not like Aaron Rodgers. Stuff like this is really funny when it’s happening to someone else, but try as I might I wasn’t able to muster one chuckle. I’m sure it will be hilarious when it’s over, but for now it’s a nightmare. I don’t know what hurt more, my kidney or my colon. Who cares?

I tried to read, listen to music, watch TV or anything else that might get my mind off the severe pain I’m having, but nothing worked for very long. I tried to make it through the day without any more drugs, just because I don’t want my bowels to go on strike anymore. One crisis is enough.

I’ll be the first one to admit I’m not very tough in situations like this. Some people are troopers and nothing bothers them. They don’t feel pain, or if they do they’re able to absorb it without any whining. I’m not going to lie, this is rocking my world and I’d do anything if it would go away.

Whoever said “When you have your health, you have everything” really knew what they were talking about. It’s so easy to take it for granted, when in fact all it takes is the tiniest little glitch – like a kidney stone – to throw the entire system off balance and out of whack. I see how it works.

What I don’t see is why everyone seems to want to offer their two cents as to what I need to do to get through this. “Just hang in there” doesn’t really do anything other than give some words to say when there’s nothing useful to say. What am I supposed to do, surrender? Who do I do it to?

The other thing I’m hearing constantly is “I bet you’ll have some new material from this!” I’ve got more than enough material, thank you. If health issues constituted comedy material, all of the new comedians would show up from burn units and trauma centers. There’s more to it than that.

If pain alone was what made up a successful comedy career, I’d be bigger than Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman combined. I’ve taken my lumps with the best of them, but nobody cares about that. Audiences are in their own pain. That’s the reason comedians exist. We heal it.

I've been hearing so many horror stories about passing kidney stones I'm afraid to pee.

I’ve been hearing so many horror stories about passing kidney stones I’m afraid to pee.

Dig Out Day

October 26, 2013

Monday October 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

After a long week of doing shows, Monday is traditionally ‘dig out day’ for comedians. We’ve got a lot to do when we’re working a full week, even though it doesn’t seem like much. It might appear to the public like all we do is stand on a stage for a short time and collect our money, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Pulling off a week of solid shows requires a lot of energy.

In my case, getting back and forth to the shows is a major undertaking. I live exactly fifty miles from Zanies, and traffic is an issue every day. About fifteen miles of that is not freeway, and that becomes a daily challenge to avoid both construction and congestion. Couple that with whatever tribulations freeway and big city driving and parking can bring and you have a daily nightmare.

Most days I’ll leave early, but I don’t want to get there too early or I’ll have to pay for parking longer than I already do. It’s become insane in Chicago, as it has in most big cities. On the other hand, I don’t want to cut it too close, or there’s a chance I’ll miss the show. It’s a delicate mix.

Sometimes traffic is clear and I have no obstacles whatsoever. Other times it’s constipated and I’m helplessly stranded and can’t move. If I could take a train I would, but they stop running and I can’t get one back home when I need it. I’m stuck driving, and that becomes an energy drainer.

The shows themselves require attention as well. As a headliner, I need to watch the entire show to see how it unfolds. If there’s an ad lib or someone in the crowd says something I need to know what it is so I can deal with it. A lot of headliners just go up when it’s their turn, but that’s wrong in my opinion. The audience deserves respect, and part of that is for me to watch the entire show.

That also takes time and energy from the week. It all adds up, and by the end of the week all I want to do is relax and do nothing. Ha! Who has that option? While I was working at pulling off solid shows all week, everything else was piling up from emails to voicemails to dirty laundry.

Monday becomes dig out day, and all I see are piles everywhere. I feel great about the week of rock solid shows and the paycheck I earned, but I also feel overwhelmed by all the errands I need to run today like getting mail from my P.O. Box, going to the bank and doing laundry. It’s boring but it all needs to get done. Plus, my phone message box is full and my email pile has returned.

I had some extra stuff to take care of today on top of all of that. My license plate registration is up at the end of the month, so I went to pay that off and get my sticker. I also needed to have my oil changed, as I haven’t had time or money to do it of late. I can’t afford to have a blown engine.

I needed to get this done today in addition to everything else I had on my plate, and it ended up taking almost a full day to get it all done. I wanted to rest up and recharge a little, but that wasn’t an option. I appreciate the fact I’m getting work these days, but it’s getting harder to stay current.

This week is going to be even more swamped. I’ve got meetings planned every day and things going on every night. If I didn’t spend all of today digging out I’d be so out of it in just a couple of weeks that I wouldn’t know which way was up. It doesn’t take long to lose control, and that’s what scares me. I’m working my ass off just to tread water. What will happen if I catch a break?

After a long week of work, Monday is 'dig out' day.

After a long week of work, Monday is ‘dig out’ day.

Can’t Stop Now

October 2, 2013

Tuesday October 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

October 1st? Already? I haven’t mailed my Valentine’s Day cards yet, but we’re already in the 4th quarter of 2013. I try to stay current, but I’m only fooling myself. This feels like one big April Fool’s prank, but I know it’s real. Time is sliding away like a runaway toboggan, and I feel like it bucked me off a while ago. All I can do is watch it get smaller as it races down the hill. Bye bye.

This has been a very eventful year so far. I’ve done a lot of fun things, but financially it’s been a major bust. I’ve got less money now than I can ever remember, and that is causing major stress on a daily basis. I need to plug into a steady source of income, and I’m looking for it every day.

Emotionally, I’ve become a human yo-yo. One day I’m bullet proof and ready to take on every challenge there is, and the next I’m ready to donate my organs and turn in my keys. Some people might call that bipolar. I call it the life of a dented can entertainer. There are big ups and downs.

I feel like I’m out at sea in a dinghy during a typhoon. I’m at the mercy of the sea – frightening as that may be. I’m bobbing around with no real direction, and whenever I try to find one a force far stronger than me sends me wherever it wants. After a while, it all becomes so overwhelming.

If there were hatches to batten down, I would. But a dinghy doesn’t have hatches. It’s exposed, and the waves come blasting up over the sides. I could read all the books I want on how to steer, but when those winds start blowing none of it matters. There’s nothing to do but wait things out.

The fact is, I really need a break. I have paid decades of dues and even those who think I’m The Antichrist will admit I have ability. Why it’s been this difficult to land somewhere and stay put is far out of my realm of comprehension. All I want is the opportunity to work in a field where I’ve been given gifts, and earn a decent living. It’s either feast or famine – and right now it’s famine.

All it would take is ONE little break to turn my whole life around, but where is it? In my mind, I should be working as a comedian every week – or at least every weekend – to full houses with people there to see me. I’d also love a steady radio gig and to continue teaching comedy classes.

Charity functions would also be a priority, and I would be the nicest guy anyone has ever seen. I would sign every autograph and pose for every picture, and make people feel special like we all want. It would be The Golden Rule in action, and we would all be better as humanity. Why isn’t it happening? I was ready for it years ago, but I seem to be going farther away rather than closer.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it feels like I’m never going to make it. I work harder than any other comedian I know personally, but it doesn’t pay off. It feels like I’m trying to get a new roll of toilet paper started, but I can’t find the first square to get things going. It’s frustrating me to no end, and I’m trying everything in my power to make something happen. What else is there to do?

The only consoling fact I can think of is that there have been a lot of people that have gotten to the point I am – and that’s when something popped. Lewis Black tells how he’d resigned himself to the fact he wasn’t going to make it, and that’s when he got a break with Comedy Central. I am way past the point of no return, so there’s nothing for me to do but keep on working even harder.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

Life can be an emotional yo-yo.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

The 4th quarter of 2013 is here.

Business Show

September 25, 2013

Tuesday September 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Sorry to bust the bubble for anyone wanting to get into show business, but it’s a lot more like a real job than most people think. There may be a lot more reward – or at least the potential for it – than a regular job, but there’s still a frightening amount of boring minutia that needs to get done.

Those on the top end of the food chain can surround themselves with a paid staff to take care of a meaty chunk of their grunt work – but then someone has to watch over them all like caffeinated hawks to make sure everything gets done correctly, efficiently and without getting robbed blind.

That leaves all kinds of unattended cracks for glitches to slip through – and many do. One way or another, performers have to make sure things get done or it’s game over. I always tell anybody who asks me about getting into show business to make sure they love it with everything they’ve got, as that’s what it will take to stay in it. If anyone wants less work, go manage a Burger King.

No offense to anyone who does happen to manage a restaurant, but it’s less work than being in the entertainment business and you can count on your check at the end of every week. It may not have any commas in the total, but it’s there. It’s kind of like a civil service job with a salad bar.

I spent most of today doing many of the piddly little tedious jobs I never liked but have to keep doing to stay in business. I spent a couple of hours going back and forth with several bookers via email, but it did lead to five dates on my calendar for November and December. I still have zilch for this week and it will probably stay that way at this point, but at least I filled some open holes.

That process never ever ends, and although I’ve never liked it I’m learning to at least handle it with more of a regular schedule. Tuesday through Thursday is the prime time of every week for doing bookings, and there’s nothing close to glamorous about it. It’s a chore, but it needs doing.

That chore can fester into a downright hassle when dates fall out at the last minute or a booker doesn’t respond to requests for an open date that would fit perfectly either in routing or schedule.

Today I happened to pick up dates that did both, and the main reason is I’ve been working at it of late. It’s taken a while to see results, but I knew I would. It’s also extra work and I knew that too.

Unfortunately, the extra time and effort I put into it has to take time from somewhere else. I’ve been completely ignoring my act of late to make that happen but I spent a couple of hours on that today just to stay sharp. I can’t just let it go completely. That’s not how it works. It’s my product.

I also worked on updating my bio and resume, as I intend to make a push to get some bookings for holiday parties this year. The economy wiped those off the map for a few years, but it appears as if that market has bounced back at least a little. I have to get out there and let people know I’m available, and there are limited dates in December and January when companies tend to do them.

By the end of the day, I’d put in about a dozen hours of work but didn’t tell a single joke. I sure didn’t get into this for that to happen, but it becomes part of the process to be able to keep getting paid to tell more jokes to different people. Again, “show business” is always said in the incorrect order. “Business” should always get top billing. That’s the most important ingredient in the stew.

Without it, there IS no "show".

Without it, there IS no “show”.

More Rejection Please!

September 21, 2013

Wednesday September 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

As crazy as it may sound, I need to have more rejection in my life. LOTS more. It’s no secret I haven’t been doing my due diligence as far as handling my bookings goes, and there’s absolutely no reason for it other than I can’t stand that part of the business and have focused on other things.

That’s going to have to change in a hurry, and it has already started. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is of ultimate importance, and if I ever want to achieve any real success at what I’ve spent so much time and energy on already I’m going to have to learn to like it or hire someone.

Some parts of life just flat out rot, even for the most glamorous of occupations. I’m sure being an astronaut has its fun parts, but crapping in a space suit doesn’t sound like one of them. Life is often a tradeoff, and we have to make sacrifices of things we don’t like to achieve things we do.

I still enjoy being a comedian, and if I want to continue I need to find a way to stay booked on a regular basis where I can make a living. There are more comedians out there looking to get the same bookings I am than ever before, so I’m going to have to step it up a few notches to survive.

The painful truth is, 99.999% of humanity doesn’t know I exist. That’s true for most everyone, but it’s especially bad for politicians and entertainers. If I am ever going to have a career instead of just a job in this business, I need to overhaul my methods and do it right. It’s been a weakness.

Getting rejected is unfortunately a major part of this game, and I’ve had a heaping helping of it for decades onstage and off. Sometimes I’ve handled it well, and other times beyond poorly. The onstage rejection I’ve learned to completely ignore. I have leathery thick skin, and have tanked it so many times it doesn’t affect me at all. Off stage is where I need to improve greatly, and I am.

Nobody likes being told they’re not good enough or worse yet totally blown off altogether, but that’s what happens on a daily basis as we try to procure work from people most of us wouldn’t choose to have personal contact with in any way if we didn’t need what they have. It’s insincere in my opinion, but also necessary. If we want work, we have to be known by those who have it.

I’ve always preferred to work for people I like and respect, but times dictate that is not always possible. Work is harder to come by than ever before, and nobody can afford to blow off possible bookings just because of a personal jag. Fortunately, I’ve already had my fallings out with most of the top flaming weasels in the business, and/or they have excommunicated me from their fold.

My big mouth has gotten me into trouble, and I’m not going to deny it. I tend to say what’s on my mind, and often it hasn’t been popular with the powers that be. It wasn’t necessarily smart to be that way coming up the ranks, although I still find it refreshing to know I had the guts to do it.

Guts are one thing, but smart business practices are another. I could’ve just as easily kept quiet and gotten a lot more bookings over the years than speak out and burn bridges like I did. It’s too late to change those particular situations now, but it isn’t too late to change how I handle myself. There are all kinds of bookers I’ve never worked for before, and I have a totally clean slate with all of them. Most if not all have no idea who I am, and it’s up to me to sell them on my ability.

I’ve said it before and it’s true more than ever – my true profession is now sales and marketing. It always was, I was just too stupid to see it. I was busy trying to be the ‘artiste’, but that’s never where the real money is. Art is fine, but that pesky word “starving” is all too often in front of it.

I’m not a fan of living like a cockroach, even though I’ve grown very accustomed to it over the years. I don’t mind a frugal existence, but I want it on my terms. Ramen noodles and Spam don’t taste that bad, but they’d taste even better if I had a million dollars in the bank. Just knowing that I could have filet mignon any time I wanted would do me fine most of the time. I’d like security.

So, is that “selling out”? I’m sure depending on the person being asked that term would pop up immediately, but so what? I’m sure had I been asked the question twenty years ago it would have made me flip out and go off on a tangent about staying true to one’s artistic vision and all of that.

I’m still very much into artistic vision, but there has to be business acumen along with it or it’s a dead end street with no way out. I know a lot of talented people who have sold themselves far too short – or worse yet not at all. If nobody knows I’m out here, how can I ever expect a career?

This is often a Catch 22 for most performers. Going to New York or L.A. was traditionally the main way to “get seen”, but that’s not where the pay is. Comedians or bands needed to get out on the road to pay the bills, and that’s the trap I fell into at an early age. It’s great to cut one’s chops on the road, but at some point there needs to be a payoff. I am now ready to get in line for mine.

I have been paying extra attention to this part of the process of late, and today I took part in an online seminar talking about marketing skills for entrepreneurs of all kinds. It was a solid hour of interesting tips and hints to make everyone’s online presence better, since that’s so crucial now.

I’ve got Facebook and Twitter accounts for both my comedy and ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I’ve not taken them very seriously quite honestly. The seminar today had three ‘experts’ I never heard of preaching how important it was to grow and maintain relationships with social media contacts.

They made a lot of sense, and that’s just for ‘regular’ people with ‘regular’ businesses. I should be ten times ahead of the curve if I’m in the entertainment business, and that lit a fire in my pants to get out there and DO it. I need to be seen by more people, but that comes with more rejection.

Too bad. I chose to be in this racket, so I’m only cheating myself if I don’t put myself out there to EVERY SINGLE PERSON that could possibly book me for a show, and make myself readily available to get hired when an opening occurs. It’s a numbers game, and if I’m not out there with everyone else how can I ever expect to move ahead? This is a simple truth, but I haven’t done it.

The good news is, I can and will change it immediately. I already have a proven act, now I just need to let more people know it’s available for hire – and at reasonable rates to boot. I’m sure I’ll get rejected a lot in the process, but I’ll also get more work too. I’ll make that trade in a second.

If you aren’t my Twitter friend, would you please connect with me? I’m @dentedcandobie and @schlitzhappened. I also have a King of Uranus @UranusTweets. I’ve got Facebook accounts at http://www.facebook.com/dobiemaxwell and http://www.facebook.com/SchlitzHappened. I do appreciate it.

A Trip To Chicago

July 4, 2013

Tuesday July 2nd, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   With gas prices through the roof, I have to really plan my trips of late. I was asked to perform a few minutes at a comedy showcase in downtown Chicago, and even though I really wasn’t up for it I said yes. I’ve been very lax at keeping an eye on the local Chicago scene, and that’s not good.

   There is a whole generation of comedians that I’ve never met, and to them I’m a total dinosaur. I do get to meet a few of them when I host the Rising Star Showcase nights at Zanies, but that’s a tip of the iceberg of all those that out there. There’s a sea of newbies swimming around blindly.

   Most of them think they already know everything and want no part of my generation, and they are making a big mistake. When I was coming up the ranks, I would live to pick the brains of any and all veteran comedians I could hoping to learn the craft of standup comedy. I respected them, and couldn’t wait to hear what they had to say. I don’t sense that hunger from most of this group.

   That being said, there are still some bright ones coming up and I should know who they are and what they’re doing. Comedy has trends just like music or any other form of entertainment, and it behooves anyone who claims to be in the business to know what those are. I should be familiar.

   There are all kinds of clubs and stages in Chicago that have opened in recent years that I’ve not even set foot in. Part of that is because I’ve been working, and part of it is lack of desire. The last thing I want to do on a night off is hang out at a comedy club – or worse yet an open mic – but to stay current that’s exactly what needs to be done. I’ve been bad at this, so tonight I ventured out.

   There were maybe a dozen people tops at the place I was at, and I won’t embarrass anybody by naming names. It’s not easy to get people in a room for anything, much less a free comedy show on a Tuesday night. The room itself was not bad, but it was empty. I feel bad for the people who produced the show. They’re comics starting out, and I have been in their shoes countless times.

   It cost me $16 to park my car, and that’s another hassle of big city life. I have a train that goes to the city from where I live, but that’s about a $15 round trip so I don’t really save much. It’s an expense either way, and without a payoff it’s not one I can afford to make regularly at this time.

   I was flattered to be asked, and I went with the attitude of trying to show support for the young comics coming up the ranks. I know how much it meant when I heard a kind word from someone who was working professionally as I was starting out, so I wanted to return the favor if I could.

   I’m not sure if it was productive or not. I was out the $16 to park not to mention the gas I used, and I ended up doing about ten minutes to a dozen people who stared at me like I was a narc. I’m all for supporting the cause, but this felt like a waste of time and money. Still, I made the effort.

    I did get to hang out with my radio friend Byrd who I hadn’t seen in a while. We were at ‘The Loop’ together in 2004, and he’s now at ‘The Drive’. The guy is a big time talent and has a voice people dream of, but he also works his ass off and I respect him greatly. He doesn’t phone it in.

   The guy eats, sleeps and breathes radio, and that’s what it takes these days to stay in it. There’s a big change in that whole business, and I don’t love it that much quite frankly. I was a comedian on the radio more than a ‘radio guy’, and there’s a difference. Byrd is a radio guy, and that’s not an insult. We had a delicious meal and talked about radio, and that’s what made my trip worth it.

A Magic Evening

May 8, 2013

Monday May 6th, 2013 – Pewaukee, WI

   Tonight I was asked to be part of a mini symposium for of all things magicians, and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had in a very long time. My friend Lynn Miner is a magician of the highest order, and he helped put together this event along with our mutual friend Jim Peck.

   Any time I can hang with Lynn and Jim I do it, but this was a special treat. Lynn asked Jim and me to speak to a group of area magicians about our experiences in the entertainment business and maybe relate a couple of stories that might pertain to them. They were into us and made it easy to fill the two hours for which we were scheduled and then some after that. Time flew very quickly.

   Jim Peck is an amazing talent. He’s got natural charisma, a strong presence and razor sharp wit and it’s no surprise he was a network game show host for years. It may sound like an insult to be called a game show host, but far from it. It’s not an easy job, and only a few can do it correctly.

   I remember watching Jim on Channel 4 in Milwaukee growing up. He did some news reporting and interviewing and was very good at that, and then he got his network break. We crossed paths through Lynn a while back when both were simultaneously working with Marquette University.

   It’s amazing how knowing someone from TV or radio can have a lasting effect. I now consider Jim to be a friend, but I still can’t help be a little star struck every time we get together. I can still remember him from both local TV and his game show days, and there’s still an aura of celebrity.

   He shared some killer stories about interviewing Barbara Walters and all kinds of other famous people, and I sat there like everyone else and was enthralled. I have a few stories of my own, and together it made for a program that by all accounts was a huge hit. I’d love to do this more often.

   The event was held at a place called “Big Guy’s Magic Shop” in Pewaukee, WI and “Big Guy” is quite sharp and on the ball. He’s got a beautiful well stocked shop, and has more than a clue as to how to promote himself and his events. His website is www.bigguysmagic.com and one of his listed specialties is ‘fart bombs’. One should never be far from being able to obtain a fart bomb.

   I happen to enjoy magic and magicians as a fan, even though a lot of comedians I know tend to look down upon it all as being less than ‘pure’. With many standups, anything short of that is not respected and it includes magic, ventriloquism and especially juggling. They’re all ‘bastard arts’.

   I can see where comedians would think that, but to many improvisers and actors comedians are the ones looked down upon. Second City in Chicago for years has looked down on standups, but I never got into all of that. Any form of entertainment done well is difficult, and nothing is better or worse than the other in my opinion. I happen to do standup comedy, but I respect everything.

   Jim said something in his presentation with which I totally agree. He said he enjoyed watching magicians work, and didn’t want to know how the tricks were done. I’m the same way. I’ll enjoy the performance thoroughly if the performer is entertaining, but I have no desire to have to know how the trick itself was done. I’m a fan of the entertainment process. The gimmick is secondary.

   This was a really fun night all around, and I made some new friends in the magic world. All of the attendees were nice people, and made Jim and I feel like big stars. Lynn did a fantastic job in hosting the event and working with Big Guy to get the word out, and it was well spent evening.

Jason Collins

May 1, 2013

Monday April 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   As a comedian, making fun of anything and everything that passes in front of my nose is what I do for a living. Whenever I happen to notice anything unique or of interest pop up in the news or anywhere else, my thinking has been trained over a lifetime to search for the jokes immediately. 

   That’s how the comedy mind works, even in the most delicate of situations. No matter how sad or horrifying any tragedy may be, there are usually jokes about it within hours. This is especially true since the dawn of the internet, but even before that people with a warped side were still at it.

   I remember hearing Jeffrey Dahmer jokes in Milwaukee about three days after it happened, and couldn’t believe they could get out there so fast. Now it’s even faster than that. I love a good line even if it’s in the poorest of taste, but that’s how comedians are. We’re trained to look for humor in all situations, and that in turn dulls our sensitivity to certain topics the public may find taboo.

   All that being said, a major story all over the news today was an NBA basketball player named Jason Collins becoming the first active player in any major professional sport to come out of the closet and declare he was gay. I’m a big listener of sports talk radio, and it attracted a lot of calls.

   Again, as a comedian my first instinct is to go right for the jokes but this made me pull the plug on that part of my brain and think it through. First off, I can’t believe anyone still has issues with someone being gay. I know I don’t, and never did. Even though I am not gay myself and admit I don’t understand it, I don’t feel it’s my position to judge anyone else. I have my own problems.

   Where I sit, that’s how it should be with everyone. I might have a complaint if I find myself in prison and am approached for a midnight date from my 6’10” frisky cell mate named Snake, but there I go with the joke angle again. This is a subject that’s going to be top of mind for a while.

   I can’t believe it took this long for someone to be ‘the one’. I’m sure there are all kinds of jocks through the years who were gay and had to live a secret life, but it took Jason Collins to push the envelope and assume the role. I bet he didn’t know what he’s gotten himself into, and I’m sure it will come with both good and bad. Like Jackie Robinson, he will be seen in history as a pioneer.

   Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal but it was according to the callers on the radio. Let the guy live his life. I thought I was a big sports fan, but I’d never heard of the guy before today. He’s a marginal player at best, even though making it to the NBA at all is a major achievement.

   It won’t be his play that he’ll be remembered for now, and I already sense controversy brewing by the way callers reacted to the whole subject. Once again, it seemed like the religious goofballs who took the low road and started condemning him to hell. That put me even more in his corner.

   I don’t think a person can help how he or she is born. If you’re gay you’re gay, and it’s nothing new. It’s been around as long as humanity, so if there is a God He or She must have programmed it into the DNA makeup somewhere along the line. Who are any of us to point fingers at anyone?

   I’m not trying to be a do good liberal crusader or anything else but a human being. After trying to look at this issue from all angles intelligently, it occurs to me that anybody’s sexual preference is their own business and none of mine. Or yours. Period. On a happier note, more gay men leave more single women so why should heterosexual men complain? Stop whining and go find a date.

So what's the fuss??

So what’s the fuss?

Jim Bouton’s Birthday

March 10, 2013

Friday March 8th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is Jim Bouton’s birthday – a date that has always been sort of a personal holiday for me. I have been a rabid fan of his classic book ‘Ball Four’ since I first read it in high school, and I’ve reread it countless times since. It’s an annual staple right around this time of year, when baseball prepares to make a comeback. That book is entertaining on so many levels I never get sick of it.

What I love about it most is its realness. Jim writes about what it’s like to be a baseball player, warts and all. He readily admits his own faults, and voices his opinions in a well thought out and intelligent manner. I don’t always agree with his opinions, but I never was bored as I read them.

He was way ahead of his time in 1970, and took a lot of flak from the baseball hierarchy for the things he wrote. He was blackballed from baseball for years afterward, and there are still those in the game who view him as a heinous villain to this day. It took major stones to buck the system.

I always tell anyone who will listen it was ‘Ball Four’ that inspired me to start writing my own diary, and it’s true. I thought it would be fun to see if I could write one page a day for thirty days cataloging what life was like as a professional comedian. Almost seven years later, I’m still at it.

The main reason I do it now is to hopefully give aspiring comedians some in depth and honest insight they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. I’ve done what they’re looking to do, and my mistakes will hopefully help them avoid wasting the time I did so they can have an easier road.

Jim Bouton and I are both cut of the same cloth in that we’re opinionated to the point of letting it hurt us, and we’ve both suffered for it but still had the guts to stand by our thoughts. I’ve been able to piss off more than a few people with what I’ve written – even when it’s not my intention.

Jim and I write what we think, and I for one always thought that’s what the whole idea of “free speech” was supposed to be about. I’m fine if someone doesn’t agree with me, but sometimes the people who get offended take it way too personally and hard feelings grow and last for a lifetime.

I can’t speak for Jim, but I’m happy to know he’s made peace with a lot of the people who had ill feelings toward him for ‘Ball Four’. He ended up making peace with Mickey Mantle, and that meant a lot to him. He’s now a fixture at New York Yankees Old Timers games, and it all seems to be water under the bridge. He is now accepted for his accomplishments, and I’m glad he is.

I sure hope I’m able to touch people with what I write even half as much as Jim touched me at a time I was very impressionable. I wanted to be a baseball player in high school, and that book really opened my eyes and let me see the real side of life much like being an NBA ball boy did.

I saw that athletes are just people, and people have flaws. Comedians are the same, and we’ve got even more flaws than the average person. I’ve never denied that, and hopefully what I write can help someone coming up the ranks learn how to behave better so they don’t have to waste as much time as I did trying to prove myself. Thank you for the inspiration, Jim. Happy birthday!