Posts Tagged ‘Dan Morris’

No Fooling

April 2, 2014

Tuesday April 1st, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

The first quarter of 2014 is now history, and I have no idea where it went. I put in a lot of work on a lot of things, and it went by a lot faster than I expected. It was productive, but I never think I do enough so there’s still some disappointment. I did pull off the benefit show for Sheri Johnson, so that was satisfying. I also reconnected with my siblings, and I’ve waited for that for decades.

Another positive was getting my monthly newsletter restarted. We’ve sent out three editions so far, and each one continues to improve. That’s a big deal, and I don’t intend to let up. I also had a varied array of fun shows, and that always makes me feel good. It’s been a positive three months. I haven’t slacked off, and every day I try to accomplish at least a little. Progress is being made.

Still, I’m nowhere near satisfied with any of it. Surviving is one thing, but I want to kick things into high gear and live life on all cylinders. I’ve had a few flashes, and it feels great. It’s time for me to get my payoff for all the years of struggle, and I need to buckle down and try even harder.

I am sold beyond sold on the Uranus concept, and that’s going to be my main point of focus for at least the next six months. I still have to survive like I always have, but I’m going to set aside a chunk of time each morning to work on all things Uranus. I’ve started and stopped and started all over, but that’s just not good enough. I’ve achieved a few results, but nowhere near what I want.

It’s now or never, and the clock is ticking for us all. My biggest regret in a lifetime packed full of them would be to go to my grave with this idea still in me. I realize it might well be a flaming failure, but that’s never been the issue. Not giving it my best effort would be the worst scenario.

I don’t care who thinks it’s a stupid idea. I like it, and that’s all that matters. I feel it in my soul, and I know exactly what I want to do with it. The King of Uranus is the ring master of a circus of talented people just like George Clinton is the ring master of Parliament/Funkadelic. He oversees everything, and decides what projects get done and who is involved. I will take on the same role.

I want to fan the flames of talent, and encourage people to stretch their boundaries to achieve a result they never thought they could. I’m a great mentor if nothing else, but I think I also have an eye and ear for knowing who can do what and matching them with people that complement them well. My role is that of maestro, and it’s a lot more than just being an idiot in a goofy costume.

That costume will eventually be a trademark, but for now I want to build the gimmick from the ground up, and get myself established with a chunk of the public. It will be a much bigger chunk than I’d ever be able to attain as plain old me, and if that’s what it takes I’ll play along with it.

I had lunch with comedian Dan Morris today, and he’s a very sharp cookie. He is a published author, and I asked him what I’d need to do to create a proposal like an author would. He said he would help me, but I have to get something on paper first. That’s my next order of business to do much sooner than later, and I’ll go from there. I had dinner with speaker Todd Hunt, and I could tell by his stare he isn’t on the same wavelength. That’s ok. I’ll focus for now on those that are.

The King of Uranus role is starting to take shape.

The King of Uranus role is starting to take shape.

Much like George Clinton in music, it will be the role of maestro. He oversees the mix of talented people. I want to do the same.

Much like George Clinton in music, it will be the role of maestro. He oversees the mix of talented people. I want to do the same.

Sun Ra was another 'calculated kook'. Despite his outlandish costume, there was a whole lot of smarts under that Jiffy Pop hat. He was also a master maestro.

Sun Ra was another master maestro. Despite his outlandish costume, there was a whole lot of smarts under that Jiffy Pop hat.

Super Soup

February 20, 2014

Tuesday February 18th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Not everyone gets an opportunity to look back over the body of work of their entire lives at the very end and sort out all the memories. The stereotypical picture is the old geezer on a death bed surrounded by family, making a final statement before peacefully drifting off into the next world.

I wonder what the percentage is of people that actually have it happen like that. My grandfather probably came the closest of anyone I’ve experienced. He died in hospice care, and I got to have several visits with him in his final days. It was awkward in many ways, and not pleasant at all.

He fought death tooth and nail to the bitter end, and bitter it was. Cancer attacked him brutally, but he hung in there and never gave up. He even went as far as volunteering for an experimental form of chemotherapy so that the doctors could tweak the dosage for future patients. That’s very ballsy in my opinion, and downright heroic. Gramps wouldn’t quit, but cancer wins in the end.

I remember trying to get his mind off his painful condition, and I asked him what his favorite memories were in his life, and it surprised me that he had to stop and think for a bit. I don’t even remember what he said, but the fact he had to think about it was a red flag – at least it was to me.

I have quite a few memories I wouldn’t mind sending off to my personal recycle bin, but those that I cherish are right up there at the top. I don’t have to wait until I’m on any death bed to haul them out and feel good. One that jumps to mind immediately is being on stage when everything is going well. If there’s a feeling of more pure delight and excitement than that I’m yet to feel it.

Another prime source of pleasant memories is time spent hanging out with other comedians. It may seem overrated to place it that high on a life list, but I know I’m not the only one to feel that way. There is just something magical about being in that fraternal mindset with people that have shared the experience of living a gypsy lifestyle and making audiences laugh. It’s a tight group.

Often meetings are held in some roadside grease trap diner, but today I had one at Bill Gorgo’s house. Bill is not only a terrific comedian, he’s as good or better in the kitchen. He co-authored a cook book not long ago, and anytime he invites comedians over for food – we all know to GO.

I first got to experience Bill’s mastery as part of the “Chicago Style Standups” group. That was several years ago now, and coincidentally the time I started writing my daily diary. We needed to have content on the group’s website, and I volunteered to write about my personal life’s exploits.

The group has long disbanded – at least my involvement in it, but we loved the camaraderie of those meetings so Bill will call one on occasion just because. The traditional fare was always his world class soups, and I don’t think he ever repeated one. It was the best soup we’d all ever had.

I had a lot of other things I could and probably should have done today, but when Bill calls for a soup session I know better than to miss it. Jimmy McHugh knows it too, and he showed up like I did. Dan Morris was a first timer, and he loved it too. James Wesley Jackson was scheduled for an appearance, but had to back out. Magician Dennis DeBondt was invited, but he got booked at the last minute. The rest of us had a blast, and made another memory that will only get sweeter.

Comedian Bill Gorgo 'cook's on stage, but he's even better in the kitchen.

Comedian Bill Gorgo ‘cooks’ on stage, but he’s even better in the kitchen.

He's the co-author of the successful cook book "Life Beyond Takeout!"

He’s the co-author of the successful cook book “Life Beyond Takeout!”

When one's ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill's delicious homemade soups make Campbell's taste like raw sewage.

When one’s ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill’s delicious homemade soups make Campbell’s taste like raw sewage.

Heckling Isn’t Helping

February 16, 2014

Saturday February 15th, 2014 – Indianapolis, IN

The good karma boat has been docking at my port quite often of late, and I’m not complaining. Today I received a call to do a last minute fill in gig in Indianapolis at a place called Latitude 39. It’s a huge entertainment complex with a bowling center, video arcade, restaurants and nightclub.

They book bands in the nightclub space, and have comedy shows on weekends. I worked there last summer, and it was a lot more fun than I expected. I was probably about due for a rebooking anyway, but the call came today because someone wasn’t able to get a flight from the east coast.

Fine by me. I had a super show last night that paid well so my week’s nut was already covered. This was found money, and who these days couldn’t use some of that? Indy is an easy drive, and I was able to get Dan Morris as the opener. It happened to be his birthday, and he wasn’t booked.

I really like Dan, onstage and off. He is very intelligent, even for a comedian. Believe it or not, that’s one trait that is virtually universal in comedians. Some of us may play an idiot character on stage, but very few if any successful comedians are dumb in real life. We might do dumb things – and I’ve tiptoed through those tulips many times – but we’re not dumb people. It can’t happen.

To perform comedy successfully, one must not only grasp a given concept or topic but also put a comedic twist at the end to get the laugh. That requires above average intelligence, even though the public would probably think otherwise. Believe it or not, it takes a smart whip to play stupid.

Dan is a college graduate, and reads a lot of books. He has a good relationship with his parents, and has worked in the corporate world for nonprofit organizations for years. He understands how marketing works, and works hard at it. Those just aren’t the ingredients of the typical comedian.

He started a little late, but he’s only in his 30s and has been doing it five years. He’s funny, but like all of us needs steady work to polish his persona. He’s still finding himself on stage, and that can be a painful process at times. Some nights it just doesn’t go well, and there’s no avoiding it.

Tonight wasn’t Dan’s best night, and I felt bad for him. I know he was giving them everything he had, but they just weren’t buying it. They didn’t hate him, but I don’t think they got anything he was trying to do. He struggled through like a trooper, and I’ve been there many times myself.

I’ve got a lot more experience, so I knew what buttons to push with these people. I was able to get them going up front, as I have a much higher energy level than most openers. That’s just how I work, and nights like tonight it really helps. I was able to take them to a higher level in a hurry.

What Dan didn’t have to deal with was a loud heckler who would NOT shut up. Why he had to wait until I got on is a mystery, but he kept yelling one word things like “CHEESEHEAD!” and “PACKERS!” for no discernible reason. After about twelve interruptions, it got to be a bit much.

I sliced him to shreds without being mean, and that shows how much I’ve grown. At one time I would have gone for the throat, but I knew it wasn’t worth it. This was free money, and I took it. And of course the halfwit had to come up afterward to say how much he’d “helped” me. Thanks!

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it's a gorgeous facility. www.latitude360.com.

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it’s a gorgeous facility. http://www.latitude360.com.

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him! www.danmorriscomedy.com.

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him! http://www.danmorriscomedy.com.

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you've consumed tell you - talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it.

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you’ve consumed tell you – talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it, or suffer the consequences.

Close To Home

May 26, 2013

Friday May 24th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL

   In the best of all worlds, I’d be able to live in a place I’m comfortable but still perform enough to keep my chops and make a decent living. That’s a much more difficult challenge than it might sound, but I’ve been trying to arrange it for the past few years. In theory, it should be attainable.

   In reality, there are still some glitches that need to be worked out. Tonight was a good example as I did a show at the Heather Ridge Golf Course in Gurnee, IL. I am a member of a group called “Visit Lake County” which used to be called the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

   Heather Ridge is a member too, and there’s a really good guy named Matt Nordigan who came to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying a comedy show in their clubhouse facility. They’ve got a cozy little room that seats about 85 people, and again in theory it would be a decent room.

   I booked a show for him probably a year or two ago that I wasn’t able to be on because I must have been on the road or something. Maybe I was on a cruise ship, who knows? It all gets lost in a big blur after a while, but that show went well enough to have him ask me to book another one.

   It was supposed to be last Friday, but I backed out because of the request by Jim Wiggins to do the shows that never happened in Minnesota. My wallet still hurts from that disaster, but Matt is flexible and agreed to delay it a week. It was nice of him to do that, but attendance was very thin.

   I’d guess there were 35 people tops, but every one of them had a great time. I closed the show, but I brought Kay Cammon to open along with Dan Morris and Mark Fenske. They all did really well, and for a sparse turnout it was a fun experience. Still, I feel bad when a venue loses money.

   I don’t know the exact numbers, but I know Matt was disappointed. I hope he was at least able to come close to breaking even, but I seriously doubt it. I didn’t get paid a ton, and I had to shell out for Kay, Dan and Mark out of that budget. Basically, I got some gas money to hang out with friends. As fun as it was – and it was – this is not what I need to be doing this late in the game.

   I really like Matt, and he really likes comedy. There are probably 2000 residents in the Heather Ridge community, and he pumped the show in their monthly newsletter which not many of them read obviously. Again, in theory the place should have been standing room only – but it was not.

   In reality, filling a room with people for any reason is flat out DIFFICULT. It might not appear to be that tough to get 100 people to show up for something, but I encourage anyone to try it and tell me how it goes. People today have too much going on and are getting deluged with messages on Facebook to the point where everything blends together and nobody can keep it sorted out.

   The redeeming factor is that it was close to home. Heather Ridge is only 15 miles from where I live, and there’s no traffic. I don’t even have to get on any freeways, which is rare. I’d love more shows this close to home, and I believe they’re there. There’s no ‘circuit’ per se, and it’ll require some hustling on my part and the part of people like Matt who are willing to try something new.

   Is this the way to build a career? No, it really isn’t. It’s a stop gap measure to pay some bills for a while as I continue to develop shows like ‘Schlitz Happened!’ and work on getting a few more corporate bookings. It saves me those hellaciously long drives I’ve been making most of my life, and now that gas is approaching $4.50 a gallon it’s allowing me to survive when others are not.

These Kids Today

June 27, 2010

Friday June 25th, 2010 – Round Lake Beach, IL

Some things are best left unsaid. I sure wish I could have grasped that concept years ago as I’ve screwed myself more than once with something I blurted out, just because it’s how I really felt. That may be true, but it’s not always a good idea to actually speak it out loud.

From some of my earliest memories, I can recall letting my thoughts come flying out of my mouth unvarnished, and seeing people’s facial expressions change drastically. I don’t mean any harm by it and never did. In fact, I always thought it was a form of respect to be able to tell someone something with no B.S. attached. I guess I was wrong. I’m learning.

Tonight was an example of a situation that came up where I kept my mouth shut, and it was a conscious choice on my part. I could have said something, but I chose not to. That’s something I’m getting better at, even though I still think what I think. I kept it to myself.

There was a comedy show at the Round Lake Beach Community Center in Round Lake Beach, IL of all places. Funny they should name it that considering that’s the name of the town. The show was put on by Dan Morris, a young comic who lives in the area and who I was able to take with me to open the shows in Champaign and Freeport, IL last week.

I like Dan. He’s serious about comedy and wants to get better. He’s looking for comedy venues to book in Lake County, and I think it’s great. He found the Community Center on the internet and approached them about doing shows. This is his second attempt and there were maybe 35 people, 40 tops. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but they all came out to have fun.

Dan asked if I wouldn’t mind closing the show, and of course I didn’t. I was off the it’s literally a five minute drive from where I live. He booked some of the younger generation of comics to do it, and although I like the people he booked, a few of them were throwing around a little attitude backstage. I know comedy is difficult, but it’s hard for everyone.

A couple of the comics were moaning a little about the lack of audience, and they were a little cocky for my tastes. It reminded me of a time when I was about that age and I had a similar outburst. I whined about a small audience one night and a veteran comic named T.P. Mulrooney got in my face in front of everyone and told me to shut up and pay dues.

He snapped at me pretty good, and at first I didn’t know how to take it. Then, I knew he was completely right and I apologized to both him and the other comedians in the room at the time, most of whom had been around a lot longer than I had then. T.P. told how being a real comedian does involve doing shows for small audiences and learning to enjoy it.

I wasn’t angry at any of these kids tonight, but I thought about pulling a T.P. and going off on the ones who were bitching in front of the others so everyone could see it and have the benefit of learning a lesson. Comedy IS a struggle, and one has to earn the right to get in front of a sizeable audience. It’s not a birth right. They were indeed lucky to be in such a plush venue as it was. Do your best show for who’s there. But I didn’t. I shut my mouth.