Posts Tagged ‘cruise ships’

Summer Strategy

January 21, 2014

Monday January 20th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

2014 is going on three weeks old, and I really like the direction it’s going. I’m working all over the place, yet staying close to home. Bookings are lining up exactly how they’re supposed to, but smart eyes need to be looking forward to the summer months. They are always the hardest to fill.

In the North, people don’t want to be inside when the weather is nice. Period. I can’t say that I blame them, as I feel the same way. There aren’t that many friendly weather months around here, so when they’re here the last thing I want is to be missing any fun. This is of significant concern, as I don’t want to be missing any paychecks either. I can’t have it both ways so I need a solution.

The time to think about coming up with a strategy is now – not on the Sunday before Memorial Day like I usually do. By then it’s too late, and all that’s left are scraps. 2013 was beyond terrible and I don’t intend to give an encore performance. June, July and August need my attention now.

One satisfactory solution would be another run on cruise ships. I shudder to think of doing that longer than three months, but I could stand twelve weeks if I had to – especially if I could have it booked soon. Knowing I had my summer nut covered would add confidence to everything else.

Another satisfactory solution would be – gasp – a radio job. I haven’t thought about doing that for a while, but the timing would be perfect. I swore I’d never bark up that tree again, but to say never just isn’t realistic. My needs are changing, and this might be the perfect time to rethink it.

I did manage to book a speaking engagement for the end of the month that will allow me to get some video that I can hopefully use to get more. I will at least have more avenues to scour to line up future work, and that brings hope for the summer as well. Depending on comedy alone for the summer months is a major mistake – at least in these times. I’d feel much better with a backup.

One thing that is going to eventually help immensely is a consistently sent monthly newsletter. Even though I’ve yet to send out the first one, it will get my name in front of as many bookers of paying work as I can find, and by sheer volume alone I’m sure some work will end up my way.

I should have been doing that all along, but I haven’t. There are reasons, but none qualify as an acceptable excuse. I was ‘busy’. Really? Busy doing what – not working? Again, I’m focused on marketing this year and this is one of the first things that need fixing. I’ve been bad far too long.

Having a newsletter start out now will give me at least a couple of chances to grab the attention of somebody who can hire me for the summer months. It will take at least six months before I am able to establish any consistency, and I know that going in. I’m expecting a payoff in December.

I’m looking to cultivate names of bookers, fans and media, and get them to hopefully think of me when an opportunity arises. That doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m starting to work on it now. My pit crew chief Eric had to switch carriers, as he didn’t like the software system of the first.

We knew there would be glitches getting started, and this was a big one. It’s a week after we’d hoped to get it sent, but nobody but us cares so we’re golden. We’ll keep plugging until it’s out.

It may be in the single digits outside, but I'm thinking about summer in my head.

It may be in the single digits outside, but I’m thinking about summer inside my head.

Another run on cruise ships may be a way to survive this summer.

Another extensive run on cruise ships may be a way to successfully survive the summer slow season.

A radio job wouldn't be bad either.

A radio job wouldn’t be bad either.

This doesn't appeal to me, even though the sign is pretty funny.

This option doesn’t appeal to me in the least, even though the guy’s sign is pretty funny.

Comedian Jimmy McHugh

October 26, 2013

Saturday October 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is the birthday of one of my all time favorite comedians, the great Jimmy McHugh out of Chicago. He is also one of my favorite friends, and I can’t say enough good things about him onstage or off. In my opinion, he should have gotten a huge break a long time ago. He’s a talent.

There is also a comedian out of Boston named Jim McCue, but we’ve never met in person. We are Facebook friends, and I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about him onstage and off as well. The two do get confused from time to time, and Jim McCue’s birthday happens to be tomorrow.

I found it kind of odd that two guys who have the same sounding name and are both comedians from two different cities happen to have a birthday a day apart. I don’t think it’s weird enough to make it into the next Ripley’s Believe It Or Not compilation, but it’s close. It adds to the legend.

I first met Jimmy McHugh in the ‘80s at The Comedy Cottage in Rosemont, IL. I used to come from Milwaukee to get stage time when I first started, and that was the showcase club in the area. There were all kinds of comics that went on to much bigger things, and that’s where it all started.

What a vibe there was in that place. The comedy boom was just starting, and audiences were as hot as one could imagine – even on week nights. It was an era that will never be again and I wish I could have recorded some of those shows for the historical value. They were loaded with talent.

The thing I remember most about Jimmy was that his material was very polished. His style is a lot different than most comedians in that he writes in chunks. His stuff is very much his own, and has stood the test of time. Several of his bits are flat out standup comedy classics in my opinion.

He does a hilarious routine about a drunk taking the bus home on New Year’s Eve in Chicago. He plays the character to perfection, and it’s outstanding. He also has one about vacuuming a rug where a piece of lint won’t get sucked up. That might not sound all that funny, but Jimmy brings it to life and gets the crowd roaring every time. Again, it’s unique and he has made it his own.

I’ll bet Jimmy has a dozen chunks of really solid time tested material like that, and even though I’ve seen them literally hundreds of times they still make me laugh out loud even now. He knows what he’s doing, and I love to watch him work. He has been paying dues even longer than I have.

Even more appreciated is his friendship. I thought I was a giver, but Jimmy goes all out. When I was doing cruise ship work a couple of years ago, Jimmy would get up at 3 or 4am to drive me to O’Hare Airport to catch a flight and then let me park my car in his driveway to save all kinds of parking fees. This wasn’t just once either. He did it week after week and never complained.

Too often we wait until someone dies to recall all the great things they did, but I wanted to put it out there about Jimmy while he’s alive so he can be appreciated for the gem that he is. It would be great if the good guy would catch a break for once, and nobody would cheer louder than me if that happened. Jimmy has booked me for shows through the years, and always pays comedians a solid buck to the point of it coming out of his pocket. He puts his money where his mouth is, and nobody I know works harder. Check him out for yourself at http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Chicago's Jimmy McHugh - a great comedian and even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com

Chicago’s Jimmy McHugh – a great comedian and even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com

Aching For A Break

November 28, 2012

Tuesday November 27th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Being an entertainer in general comes with all kinds of unexpected difficulties, but comedy has a set of unique problems that go beyond even those. One thing that can be especially tough is the process of staying in a funny mindset when funny is the last place one’s mind is at a given time.

It needs to become a habit, and something that can be turned on and off at will. That’s not easy, especially when life does what it tends to do to upset one’s personal apple cart. I remember very vividly having to do comedy shows as I was going through the horrific process of being prepared to testify against my lifelong best friend in a bank robbery trial. I still don’t know how I did that.

There were weeks of daily preparation for the actual trial, and I had absolutely no choice but to show up and do what I needed to do – which happened to be the most painful experience in a life jam packed with them. I used to have nightmares about that trial, and when it actually took place it was a surreal moment I wish I would have never experienced. Who could be funny after that?

I had to find a way, and I did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been paid to be able to squeak out the meager existence I’ve been able to squeak. Club owners didn’t care about my personal problems, nor did the audiences. I was paid to get laughs. Period. And I did. But I wasn’t laughing myself.

That’s where I am now on a slightly smaller scale. I’m not facing having to testify in any court trials any time soon, but the stress of keeping myself booked and all the other issues I’m dealing with is keeping me more than occupied. I’ve got the stress of a dozen, and I’m feeling the strain.

The IRS problem is going to be a major issue. I got two letters today telling me I owed a total a lot higher than my accountant told me. With all of those penalties and interest tacked on, I’m in a much deeper hole than I first thought. How the hell am I going to get out of this? It’s a tight spot.

I’m not finding much funny right now, at least not off stage. I was able to pull off strong shows in Springfield last weekend, and the audience would never have known anything was wrong. The way I learned to do that was from having to do it during the bank robbery trial and other times of turmoil throughout my life. But one can only do that so long, and I’m really growing weary of it.

All it would take to really bring my spirits up would be a run of quality shows somewhere. I’ve paid plenty of dues, and I can pull off the shows. Comedy clubs, cruise ships, theatres or a mix of all those venues would be fine. I just want to work and practice a craft I’ve spent my life to learn.

A successful run of quality shows would wipe out my tax debt in no time, put me in a fantastic mindset and also be a treat for the audiences who come to see the shows. I’m ready to give them a great one, as I’ve spent decades on the road polishing it. All they have to do is come and laugh.

It all seems so simple, yet at the same time as far away as scientifically possible. How will I get a chance to make my mark? I don’t know, but when I do I’ll be ready for it. I just need a break to get it all in motion. As the United Negro College Fund says, “All I ever needed was a chance.”

Battle Stations

October 25, 2012

Tuesday October 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Battle stations, everyone. Oh, wait a minute – it’s just me. I’m backed against a wall and I can’t count on anyone but myself to slug my way out. I’d love to get a helping hand from someone but it’s still hard for me to trust. I’ve been scorched so many times in life, I can’t help being a cynic.

This has to be the time to develop a new approach and a better attitude. I’ve been stuck in mud too many times to count, and it’s not like this is the worst I’ve ever had it. Yes, I owe a chunk of coin to the IRS but I’m surely not the first person to be in this position. It’s how I choose to deal with it that counts, and I’m choosing to take the high road and handle it with class and dignity.

If nothing else, it will get me to break my current pattern of behavior which hasn’t been giving me the results I really want. I’ve been barely squeaking by, which is not what I think life should be about. I want to surf the big waves, at least for a little while to experience what that feels like.

It really does boil down to a matter of money, and this is the perfect opportunity to improve my life dramatically. I am uneducated and inexperienced when it comes to money matters, and that’s totally my fault. It’s been a constant source of pain and misery, but that has to change in a hurry.

I have made up my mind to not only pay what I owe to the IRS, but completely transform how I handle my finances from now on. I’ve had enough of how I’ve mangled it for so long, and I am frustrated to the point of taking immediate action to insure it doesn’t happen again. I’m not going to sit back and feel sorry for myself, even though sometimes that seems like the easy alternative.

Today I circled my wagons and tried to come up with my smartest plan of action. I’ve got a lot of possibilities, but I can’t be farting around with long shots right now. No more Ralph Kramden or Lucy get rich quick schemes for me – at least not for the next little while. It’s time to bet safe.

I wouldn’t be above getting some kind of a ‘stable’ job for the next year or so, but just doing it to do it will be a guarantee of pure misery. I don’t mind working, I just want to do something I’ll be able to enjoy. A lot of people don’t have that luxury, but I’ve been able to do it for a lifetime.

No matter how many times I get screwed over in entertainment, I still love doing the actual job. Being on stage as a comedian or on the radio or teaching classes are all great fun when it’s going well – which after all these years is more often than not. If I have trouble, it’s with management.

Comedy bookers and radio management can be absolutely maddening to deal with, and I often say what’s on my mind and get myself in trouble. Still, there are others that think I’m one of the easiest people to work with anywhere. Those are the ones I’m going to gravitate to from now on.

I made a list of my best contacts, and I’m going to rattle their cages and let them know I could use some quality work right about now. I’ll do comedy clubs, cruise ships, corporate work, teach classes, do holiday parties or whatever else I can go make some money and rebuild the nest egg I had to fritter away last year when I was laid up. I’m going to find a way to come back and win.