Posts Tagged ‘country club’

Soul Suckers

April 14, 2014

Saturday April 12th, 2014 – Somewhere in Northwest IN

I have to be careful how I word what I want to say, and I want to say it without sounding like a moron or ingrate. I am growing extremely more dissatisfied by the minute with what I am doing for a living – at least on the level at which I’m doing it. Something has to change, and I know it.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy performing. Far from it. I love to perform on a live stage more than anything I have ever done – but only for audiences that are there specifically to enjoy a show. I’m not interested in having to fight for attention and force myself on anyone. That’s not my desire.

Tonight I had a booking at a country club in Northwest Indiana. Country club audiences tend to be either really terrific or really tough. I did one with Jim McHugh this past Valentine’s Day, and it was a monster show from start to finish. The people loved it, and it was a fantastic experience.

Tonight was not like that. Were the people nice? Yes. Were we treated well? Without question. That’s why I have to be careful with how I word this, as I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the opportunity. There were a lot of comics that could have been called for this show, and I was glad to get it. It pays my rent for May – at least it should if the transmission doesn’t fall off of my car.

The opening act was Bill Gorgo, someone I love to hang with on stage and off. We arranged to ride together, and that’s always convenient. They also fed us a delicious dinner before the show, and that was appreciated as well. Like I said, I don’t want to trash anything or anyone involved.

The contact person we had to deal with all night was an absolutely stunning woman in her 20s that was so good looking it was a distraction. Where was she when I was young and moderately cute? I know, probably not born yet. Still, she was pleasant to look at tonight and very nice also.

Everything around the gig was outstanding, but the show itself was extra difficult. Bill started it off, and had to really push to establish himself. I’ve seen him work hundreds of times, and this was rough. He had to work harder than necessary, and I knew I’d have to also. And I was right.

I wore a sport coat tonight because it was a country club, and by the end of my set I had soaked all the way through it with sweat. We were on a tiny makeshift stage next to hot lights that didn’t illuminate us very well. That made it even harder, and the crowd was a bit older and super snug.

Were they bad people? Of course not. I tried my very best to entertain them to the fullest, but I had several jokes that work like magic 99.9% of the time fall flat tonight. These were people that couldn’t relate to ‘normal’ problems like being broke or driving a rickety car. They were affluent and of a different mindset. I kept hammering and got them with my closer, but it took all I had.

I was paid immediately afterward, and I’m very grateful for that especially. But speaking from an artistic point of view, these kinds of gigs are soul suckers. Nobody knew who we were, and it wouldn’t have mattered if we were there or not. I don’t want to be the faceless idiot that nobody asked to see. I want to have FANS, and please them all night. Being a mercenary is getting old.

I know that sounds cocky and elitist to an outsider, but too bad. I’ve been at this far too long to keep having to fight to establish my credibility every single night. I know what I’m doing at this point, and having to start over again each and every night is not only frustrating, it’s humiliating.

Very few civilians know anything about what it takes to make a standup comedy show operate smoothly, and even fewer ever think to ask. I’ve only got thirty years of hands on experience, so what could I possibly add to the mix? It’s obviously better to ask the janitor how it should work.

There are all kinds of subtle yet extremely crucial ingredients that go into a successful standup comedy show that hardly anyone realizes. Everything from the lights, sound system, placement of the stage in the room, seating arrangements, pre show announcements asking for silence to an emcee that gives an act a proper introduction. Any one of them missing can ruin the experience.

All too often several if not all of these things are not done correctly, and then I’m left to slug it out by myself in less than ideal conditions. People that don’t perform can’t see how this could be an issue, but it totally is. “Just go up there and be funny,” they say. “What’s so hard about that?”

That is SO wrong, I wish I didn’t have to dignify it with a comment. But that’s how a lot of the people that aren’t in the business think about comedians. They think we just go up there without any preparation and act goofy off the cuff, and they often begrudge having to pay us for doing it.

Was tonight’s gig fun? In a word – NO. I’m probably cutting my own throat by saying that, but I refuse to lie. Was it appreciated? Absolutely YES. I needed that money desperately, and I could not be any more grateful from that standpoint – but from someone that has paid the large amount of dues I have it’s like I just dumped my life down a garbage disposal. It wasn’t worth the effort.

I have said it before, but it’s still true – I have held a long time job in show business, but never have been able to forge a career. As crazy as it sounds, I have been too busy working to construct a career, but it’s true. Driving all over civilization to do shows in bars, country clubs or even real comedy clubs isn’t the way to build a career. It’s a way to develop an act, THEN try for a career.

Building a career in show business requires establishing name recognition with as many people as possible in order to build a potential customer base, and that’s much harder than it may sound. Name recognition comes from media exposure, and that becomes an entirely new challenge to be handled by a performer. Building an act is difficult enough. Then it has to be showcased for sale.

That’s where most of us fall short. It’s not easy to get on national TV, and once one gets there it takes regular appearances to become known to a big enough segment of the public to be able to become a legitimate draw. I had my one little shot for five short minutes on national TV and did well – it just wasn’t enough to put me over the top to be recognized. In reality, it did me no good.

It was a fun experience, but fun isn’t cutting it out here in life’s jungle. Having to slug this hard each week for a living is really getting to me. I’m just not into it anymore. I made my nut for this week, but just barely. And it wasn’t easy. Next week, I have no work. This wasn’t in my dream.

Trying to make a living week after week as an entertainer can feel like the weight of the world on one's shoulders. It's NOT easy.

Trying to make a living week after week as an entertainer can feel like the weight of the world on one’s shoulders. It’s NOT easy.

No Rape Tonight

February 16, 2014

Friday February 14th, 2014 – Loves Park, IL

Valentine’s Day is usually a pretty strong night for comedy, and tonight I had a booking in of all places Loves Park, IL. It was a country club gig, and those have a tendency to go either way in extremes. They’re impossible to predict, and can be beyond horrific or off the charts fantastic.

Many a night have I toiled in sweat in front of stodgy white people with money who could not relate for the life of them the struggles of Mr. Lucky’s life. They sat there in unimpressed silence as I gave everything I had to entertain them, and then I slinked off the stage to collect my check.

I’ve done golf outings where 95% of the audience is staggering drunk after a day on the course, and the other 5% can’t stay awake for the show. Country clubs have their own set of rules to live by, and it takes a long time to learn them. I’ve had plenty of experience, most of it quite painful.

The good part is, they usually pay pretty well – at least to the person booking it. If that isn’t the actual performer, there is quite often ripe opportunity for downright rape. One of my first gigs at a country club many years ago paid me $250 which was good money for that time. I found out at the end of the night the serpent who booked me had sold me for $1250. Welcome to show biz.

Performing conditions can often be less than primitive as well. They’re not in the entertainment business, so more often than not the lights and sound are of World War II surplus vintage. That’s come to be expected whenever I perform at one now, and much more often than not I am right.

There are often other pitfalls to working country clubs as well – one of the main ones being the serving of food and/or dessert during the show. Live performance is difficult enough. Attempting to perform live standup comedy is harder than that. Doing it while people are eating is insanity.

On the other hand, I’ve had some of my very best shows ever at country clubs. They were full of people who had a sense of humor and wanted to be entertained. They were pillars in the town, and had a clue of how life worked. Most of them owned businesses, and had read a newspaper.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I booked this show myself through a guy that had used several comedians from Zanies in Chicago, and was originally from there. He was very nice on the phone, but I could tell he wasn’t sure if I could do the job. He was apprehensive.

To make sure it would go well, I hired my friend Jimmy McHugh to open the show. He’s given me all kinds of work in the last few years, so I told him I’d split the money 50/50. I know I didn’t have to do that, but he’s a headliner in his own right, and I wanted everyone to come out happy.

Boy, did we. This was one of those nights when everything went right, and we both knocked it so far out of the park we couldn’t see where it landed. It was the perfect lineup of comedians for the perfect audience. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a 26 – and I’m always very hard on myself.

This was just one of those nights that a performer lives for. Everything was working, and it was pure fun for everyone. Jimmy had to work to get them focused and he did exactly that. He earned every penny of his pay, but so did I. And I didn’t have to get raped by any booker. What a night!

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as always.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as he always does.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do!