Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Mentor Magic

July 29, 2014

Friday July 25th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

I love being a mentor. It’s got a lot of the same rewards of fatherhood without having to change any diapers. I have had some tremendous mentees along the way of all ages, and it’s funny when they have been physically older than me. It doesn’t matter, as they are still in the role of student.

I am a student myself of many things, but in comedy I am the mentor. It’s one of the few topics I’m able to speak on with relative authority, even though the entire time I am teaching I remain a dedicated learner. I just happen to be farther along than most, so I can reach back and nurture.

The challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each individual is something I never get tired of. Everybody is different, and mentoring is not something that is started and finished in one session. It’s long term, and requires dedication and input from both parties. I really enjoy it.

One of my current favorites is twelve year old Trevor Burke along with his father Joe. Joe took one of my classes at Zanies in Chicago many years ago, and now Trevor is doing comedy. He’s a super kid and I have grown to really like him – even though I would highly recommend that kids don’t do standup comedy for more than fun. There are several reasons for that, and all are legit.

First off, kids don’t have the life experience to be able to draw upon for material. They are in a tough spot, and I don’t think it’s fair to the average kid to put them in a position to be on stage in front of total strangers – especially adults. Too many things can go wrong, and it’s intimidating.

Second, bombing on stage can be an absolutely horrific experience. I wouldn’t want to throw a kid – especially one I like – into such a precarious position with any sort of regularity. If the kid is doing a talent show at school or something for other kids, fine. But as a career path? No way.

Of course there are exceptions to almost every rule, and Trevor is it. Joe has a background with entertainment, as his brother had a band. Joe is fully aware of the pitfalls, and is very good in the way he keeps Trevor grounded. He and his wife Pam are excellent parents, and it all just works.

People frequently ask me, “Is the kid funny?” He’s a KID. He’s still developing as a person, so it’s unfair to put adult expectations on him or any other child. He’s funny enough, and should he decide to stay with standup as he matures, I think he’s got an extremely bright future. What he is loaded with is likeability and experience. He’s been acting for years, and is at home on the stage.

He enjoys performing, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s a novelty right now, and everyone gets that. He’s getting a lot of attention because Joe knows how to play the entertainment game. He is Trevor’s manager, and it’s a chance for them to bond as father and son but still develop a career.

Tonight I rode to Milwaukee with them both and watched Trevor compete in a talent contest at a street fair. It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances, but he went up and did his set anyway. There was a girl about his age that was a singer, and she had a bunch of her family come out so she was the winner because it was based on audience response. Trevor wasn’t disappointed, and we went to dinner at The Safe House afterward. It was fun to hang out, and no matter what happens I will still be his mentor and friend. Comedy is a nasty racket. I want to see him enjoy his childhood.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he's a really nice kid too. I'm a big fan. www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he’s a really nice kid too. I’m a big fan. http://www.trevorburke.com

Sports Comedy With Balls

July 29, 2014

Thursday July 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

A lot of things sound really great in theory. Communism is a big one, but nobody has been able to pull it off successfully for any significant amount of time. Polygamy is another. It sounds like a party, but there are laws against it for a reason. The success of any idea lies in the execution.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the mid ‘90s, I knew I needed a gimmick to separate me from a ridiculously large glut of white males trying to make a dent in standup comedy. Supply was FAR greater than demand even then, and I saw it. From my longstanding background in pro wrestling promotion, I zeroed in on a persona I thought would get me the most attention and get me seen.

That idea was to become “The Sports Comedian – With Balls”. I’d asked my friend and mentor Ross Bennett what he thought I should focus on, and he asked me what topics I knew best. I told him I knew sports, and I wasn’t lying. I have been a rabid sports fan since I was able to tie shoes.

Ross’s answer was fast and simple: “Well, why don’t you call yourself The Sports Comedian?”

It clicked with me immediately, and I spent all the money I had at the time to get photos taken in sports jerseys. I even had sports cards of me printed up. I got a crew cut like I though a sports comedian should have, and I proceeded to try and book myself. That’s where the glitch came in.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but not everyone is as enthusiastic about sports as I am. In fact, a whole lot of people couldn’t care less about it – especially women. Granted, there are quite a few women that do follow sports at least casually, but not nearly enough to support what I was doing.

I vividly recall getting on stage with this idea more than a few times, and seeing people’s faces tune out as soon as I said I was going to talk about sports. There were some nights that went very well, but it was too inconsistent so I dropped it after a few months and dove head first right back into the pool of anonymous Caucasians. “Mr. Lucky” is what I tried next, and that jury’s still out.

Times have changed and so have I, and I think the time is right to try this idea again. I have the chance to dust it off on Monday August 11th, at Zanies Comedy Club on Wells Street in Chicago. Every few months they give me a Monday night and let me do whatever I want – within reason. I told them I wanted to try this idea, and they gave me the thumbs up. I really think it will succeed.

Everything is so compartmentalized with the advent of the internet, and that wasn’t the case the first time I tried. If this is marketed correctly – and that’s the rub for just about anything – I know I can carve out a great niche market. People that love sports are rabid, and there are MILLIONS of us nationwide. If I can tap into that market, I have to believe I can make a comfortable living.

Even if I would only do it part time, I think I could still do more than ok. Every sports team on every level has an awards banquet or a pre season kick off dinner, and if this idea was presented properly I know it would get some bites. Well, I think so anyway. Here’s my chance to prove it.

I’ve got a killer lineup of comedians already lined up, and if nothing else it will be fun to hang out with them. I am going to rattle all the media cages I can, and hope I can get some publicity. http://www.zanies.com

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn't right then, but I think it is now. We'll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th. www.zanies.com

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn’t right then, but I think it is now. We’ll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th. http://www.zanies.com

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.

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. http://www.paysbig.com

Social Intercourse

July 15, 2014

Monday July 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I have been feeling more than pretty good of late, and attempting to relax and enjoy the charms of summer. It’s been unbelievably slow on the business side, but jam packed with friends calling and asking to get together. My greatest resource has always been my long list of amazing friends, and that list gets longer and sweeter with time. If I did nothing else in life, I met some nice folks.

To have friends one must be a friend, and that’s where I’m having some issues. I don’t have all the time I’d like to hang out and visit, and that bothers me. I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like that person, not for what they can do for me. Unfortunately, that’s not the smart way to do things in a business sense. Social climbing is necessary, at least on some level.

I have always had a hard time hiding my disdain for someone I don’t care for. I realize nobody likes everybody, and there are more than a few that don’t like me either. I have no problem with that, except when those people are friendly to my face but then stab me in the back when I leave.

Why be two faced? Just stay away, and we’ll both be better off. I don’t have time for all of the good friends I have now, so why would I waste even one second with somebody that doesn’t like me? It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s not how business operates. I need to mingle more.

I think we all tend to stay with who is familiar in many areas of our lives, but branching out is absolutely essential in today’s world. Making new contacts can be a job in itself, but maintaining them is even harder. There are only so many lunches in one’s life, and how many times have we all said “Let’s get together soon,” but never do. Even if intentions are sincere, it’s just not easy.

I have been going over my master list of contacts, and I am WAY overdue to get in touch with a lot of people I really like. It could be a phone call or email, but I’d much rather meet up face to face if possible – even though they’re scattered all over the country and beyond. It’s a huge list.

We all have lives to live and I get that, but this year has been extra hard on losing many people I knew but hadn’t contacted in a long time. John Pinette is a prime example. It’s not like we were thick as thieves, but we knew each other well enough that whenever we crossed paths it was fun to see each other. We worked together enough times where we’d built up some positive history.

I’ve got literally hundreds of comedians like that scattered all over the planet, not to mention a ton of friends I made in radio, professional wrestling, trading sports cards and just going through life in general. It’s important to me to stay in contact with as many as I can, even though I can’t come close to keeping current with everyone. Who can? If someone else can do it, major kudos.

I just don’t have enough time, and it’s getting worse. I get up early, work all day, stay up a lot later than I probably should, drop off to sleep and then start it all over again. I make a hell of an effort if I say so myself, but I still fall painfully short. I’m going to have to rearrange yet again.

Idiots and/or scumbags have zero place in my life. Baseball gives three strikes, but I don’t have that kind of patience at this point. I’ll give one strike, and then you’re out. There are far too many good people I want to hang with. I don’t wish the losers harm – I just wish them away from me.

Friendship

Just Cos

July 13, 2014

Saturday July 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Today is Bill Cosby’s 77th birthday, and I challenge anybody to name a 20th century entertainer that has touched more people in a positive way. I sure can’t, and if there is one not only does my hat go off to that person, I will include my head along with it. Bill Cosby stands alone at the top.

My grandfather took me to see him when I was about 14. I will admit I wasn’t thrilled about it at first, mainly because I was a 14 year old know it all punk and didn’t think it would be any fun to have to sit through something like that. Looking back, I clearly see what a flaming idiot I was.

I remember getting to the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee with Gramps early and finding our seats. All that was on the stage was a microphone in a stand, and I remember experiencing an immediate sense of disappointment. I don’t know what I had expected, but it was more than that.

To make it worse, there was an opening act we had to sit through. It was a piano player named Walt Michaels. I don’t know why I remember his name all these years later, but I do. He wasn’t bad, and in fact he was unbelievably good – but I was 14 and knew everything about everything.

Then Bill Cosby came out and within ten minutes both Gramps and I were bent over clutching our sides with laughter. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. He proceeded to pound it out for an hour and a half, and by the time the show ended the entire audience could not breathe.

I was a fan from that day on, and I’ve never stopped. Especially since I’ve done comedy – or at least a reasonable facsimile of it – for so many years, my respect for what he has accomplished is enormous. His place in the all time annals of standup comedy is in stone, but he’s not done yet.

And that’s not counting what he accomplished in television. Fat Albert was a staple of the ‘70s on Saturday mornings, and I watched it regularly as did millions of kids of my generation. After that he only came out with the biggest sitcom of the ‘80s. Most mortal entertainer types would be thrilled to be able to lay claim to any one of those things. Bill Cosby is more than a mere mortal.

Sure, he had a few movies that flamed out. So what? Most of us never get even ONE chance to star in a movie and he got several. People make jokes about “Leonard Part 6” and “Ghost Dad”, but who wouldn’t love to be made fun of like that? If those are his worst problems, he’ll be fine.

I have been unbelievably fortunate to have met more than a few legendary comedians in person from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks and others, but Bill Cosby is one I would still love to meet. I don’t know what I’d say other than how much I love his work, but that’s enough.

I wouldn’t consider myself a peer, as he’s pretty much in a class by himself. I’m a lifelong fan though, along with millions of others white and black, old and young, Northern and Southern and just about any other kind of difference. Bill Cosby has made more people laugh than anyone else.

Can anyone think of a higher honor than that? There isn’t one. If he’s a dented can he sure does hide it well, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We all are to some degree, but people like Bill Cosby do us all a favor and make the ride a little more pleasant. What an amazing contribution he’s made.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a career he has had. Wow.

Bill Cosby is still going strong at 77. What a truly legendary career he has had. Wow.

What Is Success?

July 9, 2014

Tuesday July 8th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The mystery of the way life works never ceases to fascinate me. On one hand, I’m having all of my dreams come true with my family after a lifetime of utter hopelessness and loneliness. But on the other, I’m seeing my career go absolutely nowhere after a lifetime of unbelievable sacrifice.

Which would I rather have? Why can’t I have both? Does anyone have a tight family bond and career success? I have to believe a lot of people do, and I want to be one of them. But if I have to choose one, I’ll take it exactly how it’s playing out. It’s giving me a power I’ve never had before.

There is a major healing process taking place inside me, and I’ve never felt better. It’s building on itself and creating a steady flow of positive energy, just as it was a constant source of pain and suffering before. Chasing the show business dream was a substitute for this, but it never worked.

It’s like the difference between the best tanning booth there is vs. an actual sunny beach. There is absolutely no comparison. The tanning booth is a substitute for the real thing, and quite often a career in show business serves the same purpose. I know it did for me, but this is so much better.

Would I have jumped head first into the rusty meat grinder of the entertainment business like I did had I had a tight bond with a family? I honestly can’t say. Usually having weak family ties is what keeps a person from turning back when the business gets tough. There are no alternatives.

That was definitely the case with me. I look back at all the dues I paid and the crap I swallowed from bully bar owners and slimy bookers, and had I had a loving family support structure I doubt I’d have lasted close to this long. This can be a brutal business, and I don’t know how I survived.

Now it’s to the point where I’m not surviving, even though that’s not my fault. It’s that way for just about everybody these days, and there are a lot of miserable people out there that have paid a lifetime of dues just like I have. There were never any guarantees anyone would be ‘successful’.

And what exactly is ‘success’? It’s different for everybody, and after a lifetime of thinking I’ve been a lowly bum I totally haven’t. I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot considering the place I came from, and I should be extremely proud of myself. But am I done? I don’t see why I have to be.

I’ll be the first to admit I have made some gargantuan goofs career wise. I’ve managed to piss off some people with power, but only on a certain level. I’m not a bad person, and the minute I’d get any heat whatsoever I know those people would come running to kiss my ass and book me.

I used to really want to please those people and get bookings so I could ‘show’ others – mainly my family – that I was indeed worth something after all. Well, now I don’t need to show anyone anything anymore and that has changed my whole viewpoint on life. Now I’m doing it for all the right reasons, and I have to believe the results will be better. And if they aren’t, that’s fine too.

‘Getting famous’ can be a motivator for a lot of people because they want to use it as a tool for revenge. That never has a happy ending. I want to use it as a tool to help people however I can or to help raise awareness for worthy causes. It’s taken a lifetime, but I’m finally starting to get it.

What is success? Everyone's definition is different.

What is success? Everyone’s definition is different.

I wonder what hers is?

I wonder what hers is?

The Funniest Human

July 9, 2014

Monday July 7th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

A shocking revelation for those that aren’t in the business is that many professional comedians are not funny people in the least off stage. It is mistakenly assumed that since we make our living on stage getting audiences to laugh, it carries over into our personal lives and we’re always ‘on’.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, but that’s what far too many think. Dennis Miller referred to standup comedy as a “chimp trick”, and I see his point. I’ve always referred to it as a craft, and a craft can only be acquired through painstaking years of learning skills and putting them to use.

There are countless comedians that have a natural flair for being funny going in, but it still has to be polished and refined to a professional standard. Quite often that painful process tends to be what drives a lot of the funny out of those people, but if someone truly ‘has it’, it’s there for life.

There are also countless others that ‘have it’ – but never even once stand on a stage. My cousin Brett is one of those people. I would rank him up there with any of the top comedians I have ever met or seen, and had he wanted to he could have easily made his living doing what I have done.

Instead, he chose to be a union carpenter. He’s very good at what he does, but he faces many of the same issues I do with playing the politics game. Like me he’s terrible at it and knows it – and he also tends to shoot off his big mouth a lot like I do. We are definitely cut from the same cloth.

That’s likely what makes him so funny. He’s sick, twisted, vicious and unrelenting – and that’s a sincere compliment. Funny just flows through his veins, and no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other we can pick it up from where we left off and get each other going again.

There is no human nor animal on this planet that can make me laugh out loud harder than Brett. Nobody. He knows my buttons, and when he hits one he will not stop. He often makes me laugh so hard I think I’m going to suffocate from a lack of oxygen – but afterward I feel SO cleansed.

That’s what happened tonight as I drove to Milwaukee to have dinner with Brett. We try to get together once a month if we can, but sometimes we’ll miss. We both happened to be off tonight, so we enjoyed a rack of ribs at Famous Dave’s which is one of our favorite spots and caught up.

Brett and his father had about the same relationship me and mine did, and we have all kinds of similar issues about it. We were around each other growing up a lot more than I ever was with all of my siblings, so Brett is basically the younger brother I never had. I can’t call him little, as he’s about 6’4” with size 14 shoes. He could twist my head of like a bottle cap, but he never would.

Like my brother Larry, Brett is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He’s constantly giving of himself – and constantly getting taken advantage of. I think it goes with the territory, but it’s a part of who he is just like it is with Larry and me. We’re givers, and that’s what we do. Period.

I get to enjoy Brett’s dark and warped sense of humor all to myself, and it’s more precious than gold to me. I hope I have had that effect on others, onstage and off. It feels SO good to laugh that hard, and he’s the only one I can think of that can make me do it consistently. Now that’s a gift.

Who is the funniest person you know personally? It may not be a professional comedian.

Who is the funniest person you can think of? It may – or may not – be a comedian. For me it’s my cousin Brett. He cracks me up.

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 Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.