Posts Tagged ‘Dale Irvin’

Bigger Circles

January 15, 2014

Tuesday January 14th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

Life truly is all about the vibe one puts out, and when that vibe changes – good or bad – there is an equal and opposite reaction from the universe. It’s law, and there’s nothing anybody could do even if they wanted to. My vibe has significantly changed for the better, and I am feeling results.

New people are streaming into my life, and it’s not by accident. I’m attracting them because of my change in vibe. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I stay in this mode, and I’m hoping that will be for the rest of my life. It took a lifetime to get this far, so I want to make the most of it.

One recent example of this was hooking up with Dave Schwensen. I’d had contact with him on previous occasions via email and phone, but now he’s moving to Chicago and I know we will be crossing paths in similar circles. He’ll be teaching his own comedy classes, but he’s been at it for years and is very well connected with the Improv Comedy Club chain. I’ve never worked there.

I can feel that somehow my name will get out in a positive way, and at some point I’ll have the chance to work some Improvs around the country. Maybe we’ll teach classes or put together our own convention or something. Whatever the case, after all these years we are finally connecting.

The speaking game is another area where I sense valuable connections coming my way. I have been friends with Todd Hunt for years, and he’s excellent. He’s as good as any speaker I’ve ever heard, and his marketing is stellar. I have learned a lot from him. http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

There are fees paid to speakers that comedians only dream of. It’s a different game completely, and stakes are MUCH higher. Todd’s regular fee is significantly higher than the most I have ever made in one night as a comedian – which unfortunately wouldn’t make Donald Trump jealous.

Well, I’ve crossed paths with some of the very top income generators in the speaking business from Dale Irvin to Larry Winget, and I’m studying how they’ve put together their business plan. Mikki Williams is another top name in that arena, and she called me on the phone yesterday and went over some ideas of how I can make a name in that market. I’m crossing paths with the best.

Mikki is very highly respected in the speaking world, and has the most elaborate newsletter of anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s called “Hair She Is” because she has a lot of hair, and that’s what she uses as her trademark. She commands top dollar whenever she speaks. http://www.mikkiwilliams.com.

Tonight Eric Feinendegen and I met with Jean MacDonald, a speaker who is one of THE most connected people I’ve ever met. She knows everyone in the Chicago business world, and offered to help spread my name around. She and Eric are both Toastmasters, and they took my class last summer at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. They loved it, and now we’re working together.

It’s all about connections, and I’m starting to get some great ones. I want to be one too, and I’ll gladly help people in return. I’m feeling a whole new group of quality people around me but I’m not abandoning the good people I already know. On the contrary, I want to reconnect with all of them too. James Wesley Jackson “The Enviromeian” is an example. I want to promote the DVD I produced for him, and that’s on the agenda for this year too. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

My friend Todd Hunt is one of the best speakers in the business. www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

My friend Todd Hunt is one of the best speakers in the business. http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

Mikki Williams has THE most in depth newsletter I've ever seen. Hands down, she sets the standard. www.mikkiwilliams.

Mikki Williams has THE most in depth newsletter I’ve ever seen. Hands down, she sets the standard. http://www.mikkiwilliams.

Jean MacDonald is one of the most connected people anywhere. She's also a speaker and author. www.jeanconnects.com.

Jean MacDonald is one of the most connected people in Chicago – or anywhere else. She’s also a successful speaker and author of two books. http://www.jeanconnects.com.

I don't want to forget about James Wesley Jackson "The Enviromedian". I produced his new DVD and he's a wonderful person to boot. www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

I don’t want to forget about James Wesley Jackson “The Enviromedian”. I produced his hilarious new DVD and he’s a wonderful person to boot. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

A Marketing Mark

December 12, 2013

Wednesday December 11th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I tried to come up with a rough estimate of the total number of people I’ve performed for in my entire lifetime, but it’s almost impossible to be anywhere close to accurate. If I had to guess on a round number it would have to be right around a cool million. It gets confusing, but let’s explore.

I began performing standup comedy in November of 1983, but that was once a week for maybe 40-50 if I was lucky. It took a while to get going, but by 1985 I was working steadily in comedy clubs six or even seven nights a week. That’s how most clubs ran then, and stage time was easy.

I worked year in and year out, even when I had my various radio jobs around the country. I was always diligent about getting on stage, and even though it was often a five to ten minute guest set I still count that as performing. That steady unfaltering consistency lasted roughly through 2010.

The last three years have been much slower, but it’s been that way for everyone. Few clubs are open six or seven nights a week as was commonplace in the ‘80s, and all too often my work now boils down to a weekend. Sometimes it’s only one night of that weekend. It’s just not like it was.

Some shows I’d perform for 30 and others 300 – sometimes on the same night. If I had to pick a number to average it out, I wouldn’t have a clue. Let’s just throw out 100 as a round number to start with, and multiply that by roughly 250 shows a year. Sometimes it was even higher, but for the most part that’s probably pretty close to how many it was the years between 1985 and 2010.

That’s 25 years of averaging around 250 shows a year for roughly 100 people each show. That adds up to 625,000 people, but who knows if it’s accurate? What if the average was 150? It may or may not be closer to reality, and that would bump it up to 937,500. That doesn’t count the two years it took to get up and rolling or the last three years where I did still work as much as I could.

And I’m not including any of the radio or TV I’ve done. I’m just counting live standup comedy performances, and to the best of my backwoods figuring capabilities I’m somewhere close to the one million mark of those who have seen me perform live. Out of six billion, I’d say that’s low.

Not only is it low, it took a lifetime to achieve it. Granted, I was told that the audience on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” reached about two million viewers. I don’t remember who told me that or even if it’s accurate, but that’s what I heard. I also was told our weekly number of listeners when I was on the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was around 250,000.

I’ve been on the Bob and Tom radio show six or seven times, and they allegedly have several million listeners in roughly 200 US markets. All these numbers don’t mean much, and I have no way of getting a realistic head count so I won’t even try. I’ll just say I’ve been around the block.

The point I’m trying to make is that my goal is to get $20 from all of these people. That could be a ticket to a live show, a CD, DVD or all three. Maybe it’s a t-shirt, baseball cap, fishing lure, codpiece or any other bauble or trinket in any conceivable combination. Live shows are fine, but merchandise is what shoots income over the top. All the great marketers are documented masters of “back of the room” sales, and I intend to be right up there with the best that have ever lived.

It’s not just a matter of hauling around a bunch of random doo dads though. I think there needs to be some thought put into it, and the products have to have something that sells them. I guess it could be called a gimmick, but I don’t want to rip anyone off. I want to find what sells a product and do just that. I have no idea what that is right now, but I intend to find out sooner than later.

Say my first estimate of 625,000 people was accurate for argument’s sake. What if I had begun selling a lot earlier than I did, and gotten $20 from only 10% of those people? That’s still the tidy sum of $1,250,000. Even after taxes, that would be a nice little chunk of change to have handy.

I started selling CDs in 2003, only because people were asking me for one. I did sell some, but also gave away a whole lot too. I thought it would get my name out there, and it has. I get people sending me emails saying they had a friend loan them my CD and now they’re a fan. That’s nice.

‘Nice’ doesn’t cut it however. Would it be that difficult to get their email address and put them on a mailing list? Not at all. Then they could find out where I’m performing, and maybe it would even be in their area where they’d come out and see me live. If I had other products, they may be so inclined to buy some or all of those as well. I have missed out on literally millions of dollars.

I remember having the idea to record an album back in the late ‘80s. NOBODY back then was selling anything once again with the exception of James Gregory and I have always respected his vision. Comedians used to poke fun at him for doing it, because they were ‘purists’. Right. Those ‘purists’ were too busy guzzling booze, snorting cocaine and chasing waitresses to be marketers.

I was never a partier, but I also never focused on my business either. I had more than my share of other problems to worry about, but had I been smart I would have done that album when I had the idea. Nobody was doing anything like that then, and even though it likely wouldn’t have been very good I bet I could have sold some just because I had it. It would have been worth the effort.

Brad Tassell is from my comedy generation, and he wrote a book called “Hell Gig” about what it was like to live on the road and do comedy. Nobody else had a book then, and I always thought Brad was brilliant for writing it. He sold them after shows, and I bought one out of respect for his effort. He was far ahead of his time, and it’s still available today. Find it at http://www.streetjoke.com.

Heywood Banks is another terrific marketer from the standup world. At last count there were 6 t-shirts, 9 CDs and a book available on his site at http://www.heywoodbanks.com. Actually, he’s from the music world but crossed over into standup many years ago. Most comedians are poor at sales.

James Gregory is a self admitted ‘salesman who tells jokes’. He’s another all star marketer that used standup comedy as his sales base. His site is http://www.funniestman.com, where you can buy his products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The internet has only made the great marketers greater.

Larry Winget is a master marketer in the speaking world. He’s got a ton of books, and I always see his emails announcing a new one. His site is http://www.larrywinget.com. Dale Irvin is another one who has released a collection of books. I believe his total is 8. Count them at http://www.daleirvin.com and sign up for his ‘Friday Funnies’ email and/or video. That’s another brilliant hook he’s known for. I have plenty of stellar examples to follow – now I need to make my own mark as a marketer.

It wasn't at first sight, but I'm growing to love marketing - or the 'business' side of my 'show'.

It was far from “at first sight”, but I’m growing to love marketing – aka the ‘business’ side of my ‘show’.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get – figuratively and literally.

A Whole New Game

December 10, 2013

Monday December 9th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

My pursuit of marketing excellence begins. This is going to be the majority of my focus for the rest of my life, and I want to put it out there so people call me on it. My natural instincts are to be a performer first and focus all my creative energies there, but that route proved to be a dead end.

It takes plenty of creativity to be a marketer too, it’s just focused in a different direction. I need to consciously divide my waking energy between my actual product(s) and getting word to those I need to have be aware of who I am and what I can do so they can hire me . It’s a balancing act.

Before, all I would focus on was the ‘show’. I loved it and still do, but there was far too little of an effort put into the ‘business’. There was enough work for enough time that I didn’t need to put much effort into chasing it, and in fact it found me. I was competent enough to have bookers line up for my services. What I didn’t realize was, they weren’t ever going to get me to the next level.

Now I know much better, and I need to approach those who can help me advance. They would include network television show talent bookers, national and international media outlets, meeting planners for corporate events and venues I have wanted to work but haven’t for whatever reason.

I can even improve dramatically with places I already work. It would take minimal effort to put together a monthly or even quarterly newsletter of what I’m doing so I can get my name in front of them even more. They already hire me, but even one more booking would be worth my while.

This is just simple business maintenance, but I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t done it. There are zero excuses, and I’m going to change my ways immediately. What needs to get drilled deep into my rock hard skull is that these are sales accounts, and they bring in money. They’re cash cows.

It would be easy to beat myself up now, but that won’t do one bit of good. What will do plenty of good is to look ahead and make dramatic changes for 2014. On the good side, I can’t think of anybody who has paid more dues than I have getting a show together. I’m completely fresh meat to a whole new market, and I have to believe I’ll be able to get hired and establish a stellar name.

I’ll also continue to work the places I already do, but market myself a whole lot better. I’ll stay in much better contact, and I’ll put time and effort into a mailing list to keep my name fresh with booking agents, media and fans. Those are all areas that need to have steady contact maintained.

Another cage I’ve thought for a while about rattling is the National Speakers Association. I’ve heard mixed reviews on whether to join or not, and it’s a significant financial investment that has no guarantee of bringing in speaking work. I have had people I respect tell me to join, and others I respect tell me to avoid it. I’m still on the fence, but I’m going to look into it a lot more closely.

The main reason I am considering it at all is that speakers as a rule are light years ahead of any comedian in the marketing department. James Gregory and Heywood Banks are a pair of shining stars at comedy marketing, while there are too many speakers to count. Todd Hunt is outstanding as is Larry Winget – but so are Dale Irvin, Greg Schwem, Mikki Williams and Steve Olsher. I’ve met all of these people personally and will model their methods. I’m playing a whole new game.

I'm thinking about joining the National Speakers Association. I have heard pro and con, but I'm still deciding.

I’m thinking about joining the National Speakers Association. I have heard pro and con, but I’m still deciding.

My NEW Business!

December 7, 2013

Friday December 6th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL

My future boils down to marketing, and I know it. It’s not a secret, and now it comes down to execution. Will I or will I not be able to sell myself to enough people to continue to forge out a living doing what I was born to do? I say I will, but I am going to have to rethink my methods.

The first thing I will need to do is assume I am starting all over – which in a way I am. I’ll need to put together a complete list of everyone I can find who has the possibility of hiring me where I see myself working, and then get my name in front of them in a positive way until they hire me.

A content filled up to date newsletter is going to be a must have for 2014. Building long lasting relationships takes consistent effort, but it’s so worth it when it works correctly. Zanies is a great example, as we’ve been helping each other for twenty years. That relationship has been win/win.

As much as I love them, that’s not nearly enough. I need to forge similar relationships with lots of people all over North America and beyond. Comedy clubs don’t pay nearly what the speaking field pays, and I’ve got enough true life stories and stage chops to make a mark there in a hurry.

There have been quite a few top level speakers that have come directly from the comedy clubs, and I know several of them personally. Dale Irvin, Greg Schwem and Tim Clue are all based out of Chicago, and they smartened up a long time before I did. They’ve all been speaking for years.

Todd Hunt is a friend who was never a comedian, but he does give humorous speeches and he is THE best marketer I’ve ever seen – with the possible exception of James Gregory. Todd and I exchange ideas often, and I’ve helped him make his speech funnier over several years. Now he’s making suggestions how I can market myself better, and I’m listening with wide open ear holes.

There’s a whole lot of work to do, but that’s not the problem. The key is to sort it out into what needs to be done in what order, and sticking with that plan no matter what. I look at it as if I were building a house from the ground up. There needs to be logical progression, or it won’t get built.

I’ll admit that’s been an issue in the past. I’ve intended to build a house, but instead of digging a foundation I might varnish a door or squeegee a window. That’s not the right order, and that’s why I’m in the position I am in now. I’m not beating myself up, I’m just assessing my situation.

A new year is just ahead, and this is a perfect time to be thinking about all of this. I’ve hung in there this long doing it my own haphazardly way, why not switch it up and learn from my many mistakes so I can achieve results I really want? I’m excited knowing I’m doing it right for once.

I met with Eric Feinendegen tonight to plot out 2014. He’ll be my pit crew chief as I transition into speaking and more corporate work. I have the ability, and now I’m putting my team together to finally get my payoff for all my decades of struggle. I know there’s a place for me somewhere.

The most important thing to remember moving forward is that I’m not in the comedy business. I mistakenly thought I was for thirty years, but I’m in the MARKETING business. Humor is my basic product, but comedy clubs aren’t the only outlet. It took a while, but I’m finally wising up.

McDonald's isn't in the fast food business, they're in the real estate business.

McDonald’s is not in the fast food business. They are in the real estate business.

Walmart isn't in the retail business, they're in the trucking and transportation business.

Walmart is not in the retail business. They are in the trucking and transportation business.

Dobie Maxwell is not in the comedy business. He is in the marketing business - and this is the age I should have known it.

Dobie Maxwell is not in the comedy business. He is in the marketing business. This is the age I should have realized that. I know now.

Circle Of Friends

September 8, 2012

Thursday September 6th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Oak Park, IL/St. Charles, IL

   All kinds of surprises today but each one was wonderfully pleasant. First, I got the call to fill in on the morning show on WNTA in Rockford, IL. Jim Stone often calls on short notice, but that’s not a problem. I always try to do it if I can, as it both helps Jim and gives me on air practice time.

It’s kind of like the bat signal. I never know when I’ll get the call, but when it comes I’m ready to drop what I’m doing and show up at a moment’s notice. Hopefully it builds good karma in the long run, and it really is worthwhile as far as building talk host chops. I am steadily improving.

Today was a perfect example. I was on from 6-10am and I didn’t have a guest in the 6 o’clock hour on purpose. One, I wouldn’t call my friends on short notice to be on that early, and two – it forced me to learn the craft of filling the time by myself. With commercials and news, the hours consist of four segments of about 9 minutes each. That’s a lot of time to babble alone in a room.

The first time I did it, I was really intimidated. I didn’t expect to be by myself, as I’ve become used to being the smart ass sidekick that reacts to everything. Being the source is not the same at all, and I had to make a big adjustment the first time I did it. Now, it’s no sweat. I can handle it.

I made it through that first hour with no problems at all, and even had stuff left over I could’ve talked about if I needed to. It may not have been riveting radio, but it wasn’t some halfwit off the street embarrassing himself and the radio station either. There has been significant improvement.

In the 7 o’clock hour I had Jeff Schneider on as my telephone sidekick. We’re used to riffing at length from doing ‘The Unshow’ podcasts, and he really is an interesting guy with a much better grasp of current events than I have. I’m pretty out there with the stuff I like, but he’s into subject matter more palatable to the public. Talking about George Clinton and Uranus wouldn’t be a fit.

I also had comedian Tim Walkoe on to talk about the Democratic National Convention. Tim is very passionate to say the least, and really knows his stuff politically and can voice his viewpoint in an entertaining way. It fit perfectly with what should have been on the radio on a day like this.

Dale Irvin came on the next hour, and he’s great too. Dale is a ‘professional summarizer’ and is in the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. He’s always entertaining on the air and did it on short notice which I totally appreciate. Dale is an amazing marketer too. He’s got books and a free weekly humor video service called ‘The Friday Funnies’.  Find Dale at www.daleirvin.com.

After the radio show I received a call from Jim McHugh. Jim and I have been on WNTA many times together as a team, but the budget only allows for one these days and splitting the pay isn’t good for anyone. It’s not that much to begin with, but I don’t do it strictly for the cash. I enjoy it.

I haven’t seen Jim in a while, and we hung out at his house for a couple of hours to catch up on a lot of things. Jim is trying to promote comedy show fundraiser events with a group he’s calling ‘The Chicago Comedy All Stars’, and I totally think there’s a market for what he’s trying to do.

The website is www.chicagocomedyallstars.com and is done by Mark Huelskamp who is doing my King of Uranus website. Jim has been really great in pushing me to get the site up, but trying to make time for everything just isn’t easy. I’ve dropped the ball, but only because I’ve had to do what I can to just stay afloat. There’s no excuse for either of us, and we know it. We need action.

It was good to hang out and talk about both of these projects. I’m helping him with what he is doing and he’s helping me. Together, we’re both struggling to survive but at least we’ve got each other’s back. Jim has two kids in college, so his problems are different than mine but both have a need to make a living and that was our focus. It was a productive session but we also had a blast.

After that it was on to Oak Park, IL to visit Cara Carriveau, my former co-worker at The Loop. Cara did the midday shift when I was on the morning show, and we got along very well. ALL of us did, and that’s why it’s so frustrating we’re still not there. What an outstanding staff that was assembled by Greg Solk including Cara, Seaver, Byrd, Mark Zander and Jimmy Novack. Wow.

All of those people were easy to get along with and very good on the air as well. I loved being a part of that team, and most of us still stay in touch at least once in a while. I hadn’t seen Cara in way too long, and she invited me over for dinner with her and her kids who I also enjoy seeing.

Cara is a total pro, and I can learn from how thorough she is. She’s been doing a podcast a long time before it was cool, and I was her first guest. She interviews rock stars mainly, but she asked if I wouldn’t mind being her first interview to work the bugs out and of course I had to say yes.

It’s called ‘Cara’s Basement’, and it really is recorded in her basement in a studio she had built. She said the interview we did still gets hits, and that along with all the others can be heard at her website www.carasbasement.com. She does a fantastic job with it, and has had some big names.

I can learn from Cara’s way of handling her business. She’s extremely sharp, and really keeps her focus not only on her career but on her family too. Being a single mom is brutal enough, but add working in major market radio to that and it’s about as rough as rough gets. But she nails it.

Cara does the midday shift at 101.9 WTMX ‘The Mix’ in Chicago and does it extremely well. I always thought she sounded great at The Loop, and still does on The Mix. She’s major market all the way, and one of my very favorite people. This was a day I got to spend hanging with the best.

My final stop was Zanies in St. Charles at the Pheasant Run Resort. I don’t know why I had an urge to go there, but that little voice inside told me to go and am I glad I did. I didn’t have a clue who was there this week, but to my pleasant surprise it was Eddie Brill. Eddie was the booker of the David Letterman show for years, and still is the regular audience warm up act. What a peach.

Eddie is just a flat out nice man. He knows what it’s like to be a comedian, and is very kind to everyone who wants to be on the Letterman show – who is everyone on Earth. Rick Gieser is the P.R. person for Zanies and he was there too, and we ended up hanging out for an hour afterward exchanging stories and talking sports. I wish every day was like this. I have some super friends.

Two Hots And A Not

January 31, 2010

Saturday January 30th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

Three shows today – two on stage, one on radio. The two on stage had a total combined audience of around 400. The radio show had several hundred thousand, if not more. Two out of the three shows came off without a hitch. Guess which one sucked rotten eggs?

I have to admit, I really stunk it up on Jerry’s Kidders today on WGN and I feel horrible about it. Jerry Agar is nice enough to have us on and I never want to embarrass either him or the station. I don’t take that opportunity lightly, and I want to contribute when I’m on.

I feel like I owe it to both Jerry and the other Kidders to step up and be the leader in the room as we’re on the air. I’ve done radio and comedy, and know the timing of both. It’s a total blast when it’s going well, and it usually does. Today I thought we were misfiring on all cylinders, and most of it started with me. For whatever reason, we never hit our stride.

Ken Sevara took the week off because he had a gig. Since we’ve been on WGN, each of us has had to bow out at some point, only because Saturdays are our work days. It’s tough for all three of us to make it in every week, but nobody’s angry about it. It’s just how it is.

Dale Irvin filled in for Ken, and he’s a total pro. He has his own individual bit he’s been doing for years called “The Friday Funnies” and it’s basically the same thing we do as the Kidders. He finds goofy news stories of the week and writes jokes. They’re funny jokes at that, and they’re on video. You can subscribe at http://www.daleirvin.com and I recommend it.

Tim Slagle is our other Kidder and he’s usually on point also. In fact, we tend to like to tease Ken because he’s not the strongest ad libber. That’s not a bad thing, he just isn’t. He likes to be prepared and he can do great impressions and voice characterizations that none of the rest of us can, so everyone has their place. Today, that place wasn’t a radio studio.

One would think with three of us who’ve been on the air before and Jerry, we’d be able to get in there and start throwing heat from all directions. Many times we do exactly that, but not today in my opinion. Nobody else said anything, but I felt like it was a train wreck the whole time, and most of it was my fault. The harder I tried to flow, the less it worked.

We fell back on a lot of self effacing humor and made fun of ourselves, but that doesn’t cut it for long. Eventually, someone needs to land on some punch lines. I’ll admit I like to work off the cuff, and this is the danger of what can happen when that doesn’t work out.

I don’t want to overanalyze it, but we weren’t anywhere near where we should be today. This is one of the advantages of radio though. If we did stink, it was diluted and we didn’t have to suffer the torture of having to eat it live on stage in front of a room full of people.

That’s the worst feeling I know. If an audience doesn’t like a show, everybody knows it. And I do mean everybody. Time slows down and it’s a bloody vortex of negative energy. On radio, people either don’t know or care, or if they do they can just change the station.

What probably happened was that nobody noticed. I did, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. It’s not my show. My name is nowhere on the product at all except for at the top of the show when Jerry introduces us. If I’m going to pick a place to blow it, this is it.

Still, I never want to put Jerry or the guys in a bad way. We’ve all worked way too hard and long to start slacking off now. If we’re going to be on the air, we should be able to be at least a little bit funny for those who take time to listen. I don’t think it happened today.

The good news is, what I think about this doesn’t matter one tiny little bit. Perception is always what matters, and the perception is we’re good enough to be asked to be on WGN radio. We’ve had enough good shows where the powers that be haven’t yanked us off yet.

This one was just a blip. Athletes get into slumps and I’m sure actors and musicians and any other kind of performing artist has to deal with an off day once in a while. This was a show that I didn’t like, but sometimes I can be way too hard on myself. Maybe I am now.

The two shows at Zanies tonight were a completely different story. I didn’t nod out this time and was ready to go from the beginning. There were two nicely packed houses and it felt good to have an opportunity to work a full week of well attended shows at a club. It’s how every week used to be back in the boom years, and I forgot how much fun that was.

The other acts on the show this week were both nice so that also made it fun. Zanies has a smart policy of hiring ‘house emcees’ which are experienced people to host their shows for a month at a time or maybe longer. I’ve house emceed in the past and loved it. It helps the club by making the shows stronger and helps the acts by giving us steady local work.

The house emcee this month is Vince Maranto, a funny guy I’ve known for probably 25 years now. We met when I first started coming to Chicago and have stayed friends all that time. Vince has the distinction of having had only two jobs in his entire life – McDonald’s and comedy. He started working at McDonald’s in high school and climbed up the ladder.

Eventually, he became a manager at the Woodfield Mall location when it was officially the busiest McDonald’s in the world. He started doing comedy and that became his career but he has some interesting stories of his McDonald’s years. Vince is always fun to work with. We make each other laugh off stage because we’ve got so much common reference.

The feature act is a 22 year old Indian kid named Prashanth Venkataramanujam. That’s more than a mouthful, and he just uses his first name on stage. He’s very bright and has a big future if he stays with it. He’s a good looking smart kid, and I hope he does very well. He asked me to grab some food after the show and pick my brain, which is totally smart.

Most kids his age wouldn’t have that foresight, but he totally does. I tried to help him as much as possible, as did Vince. He’s still green and putting his act together, but there’s an absolute spark there, and he was eager to learn from us all week. Working with a pup has a way of rubbing off on two old dogs like Vince and myself. It was a fun week all around.

Love And Haiti

January 16, 2010

Friday January 15th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Another full day of play practice today, but that wasn’t really what’s on my mind. We’ll be able to pull this off when the curtain goes up tomorrow night. We’ve all put in a ton of time and effort getting this project to this point and I’m really pleased with how it’s come so far in a relatively short time. It doesn’t suck, and we’re not going to embarrass anyone.

Our lines are pretty much down by now, but today we did a full dress rehearsal to get an exact feel of how much time we have for costume changes and where we each need to be on stage during each of our scenes. We all blew some technical aspects, but that’s why we rehearse. Nobody did anything major, and we all knew right away where we screwed up.

Dale Irvin was very nice to have driven down to watch and support us and he had some very helpful notes, as did Vicki Quade. Vicki is a pro and has all kinds of productions up and running at any given time and she’s been absolutely essential to getting this all going.

Everyone we’ve been in contact with has added to the mix with this whole project. It’s really been a team effort all the way, and a whole lot of fun too. We’ve got costumes and a stage setup and the material flows very well from all of us. Mostly that’s because we’ve all been on stage before. This is our standup material presented in a much different way.

Vicki got us some nice articles in a few of the south side newspapers and that’s another reason we’re all glad to be working with her. She’s done this before, and knows what the papers want. We’ve done it too, but not in the theater scene. We’re thrilled about it all.

The hardest part of the work is over now. We went from idea to page to stage and today we all walked out of there knowing we will come back tomorrow and give a show we can all be proud of. No matter how many or few show up, they’re not going to get cheated out of their money and that’s all we can ask for. We hope they enjoy it, but that’s up to them.

The Beverly Arts Center is a gorgeous facility and we’re loving it more and more as we rehearse there. There’s a guy named Peter who’s helped with lighting and sound cues who has been super easy to work with as have everyone else we’ve met there. Their website is http://www.beverlyartcenter.org and they’ve got other great shows besides us. Check them out.

What’s really bugging me is what’s next? I really didn’t plan on this play taking up this much of my time and energy, and I’m already slipping behind on my plans for everything else I’m trying to get done in the new year. I’ll have to make some tough decisions on my next moves so I can get back on track. The play is up and running and out of our hands.

Vicki will act as our agent and either book us or not. That’s what she does, and she’s as good at it as anyone I’ve been around so who knows? Maybe we’ll be working a lot but if we don’t, I need to have a backup plan. Actually, THIS was my backup plan. I decided to invest the time with the Kidders to make this happen so we’d have something to possibly sell to earn some extra money, and I’ll be dipped in spit if we didn’t pull that off exactly.

That’s not what I was thinking about most of the day though. This whole Haiti situation is really bothering me. I feel SO sorry for the people who are suffering down there. I don’t care what color they are or if they drink goat’s blood or whatever they allegedly do, it just makes me sick that so many people have to go through something as horrific as they did.

What really makes it worse is that they were suffering in the first place. I can remember when I worked in Miami a dozen years ago how everyone always made fun of the Haitian people. They were the Polocks of the Caribbean, and everyone told Haitian jokes instead.

I love jokes as much as anyone, and the sicker and meaner the better. But those are just JOKES. Deep inside, I have to believe any human soul with kindness knows when to stop kidding and start showing compassion. This is that time. Those people are in a big hurt.

I’m not going to go off on any big rants or complain about politics or anything else I am not qualified to do. I’m a political idiot and I admit it. Of course I have opinions, but who said that means I know what I’m talking about? I spout my mouth off with what I feel, but nobody needs to hear that now. What needs to happen is a little help for our humankind.

When Katrina happened, it got ugly and political and everyone pointed fingers and it’s a scar on our country to this day. My opinions don’t matter about that either, but it seems to me there could have been a much better solution on all sides in that mess. Let’s hope that this doesn’t wind up as political ammunition. No matter who’s in charge, HELP THEM.

I wish I could do something to help, but what? I’m struggling to survive myself. I guess I could send a few bucks somewhere, but how do I know it would do any good? This is an opportune time for scammers unfortunately, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out very soon to prey on people like me who want to at least make an effort to show some compassion.

It’s my job to make jokes and poke holes in the insanity of life, but there’s not one thing funny about thousands of people losing their lives in a few seconds. And why them? Why is it all so random? Those people were already dirt poor, now this? Who’s in charge here?

I can piss and moan and complain with the best of them but this is not a time to do that. I have no problems at all compared to people in Haiti who have piles of rubble where the house they lived in used to be. All I have to worry about are my stupid little lines for my stupid little play that reflects my stupid little life. I may have problems, but not like that.

I also stopped to see a woman I’m very fond of, and that was a total disaster too. I’d not seen her in a while and wanted to reconnect. We’d gone out to dinner a few times and had what I thought was a good time but then she invites me over tonight and tells me how she has a new guy she’s seeing and how great he is. Why do women do that? I felt like an ass.

There must have been some crossed signals or something so I got in my car and deleted her number from my phone. I would have been pissed if I hadn’t thought of the people in Haiti who are sleeping on rubble tonight. My dating life really doesn’t matter very much.