Posts Tagged ‘Dan Still’

Still Working It All Out

September 25, 2010

Friday September 24th, 2010 – Las Vegas, NV

Had a bit of a detour today, but I’m not upset. This was supposed to be the ultimate day for networking, the highlight of the entire trip. There’s a meeting place at Hooters here in town for all working comedians who want to gather and it’s called “The Fryer’s Club”.

That’s a clever takeoff on the legendary Friar’s Club in New York, where comedians of past generations used to gather. I’ve heard about the tradition in Las Vegas and was going to attend with some comedian friends, but just as I was about to leave I got a call from my friend Dan Still informing me he’d just lost his day job and his life was in a major funk.

I’ve known Dan for twenty years, and there are few with a heart as big as his. He’s from Milwaukee, and decided to come out and test the waters of the contest in Las Vegas. I had no idea he’d be coming out here, and was glad to see him when he showed up Tuesday.

Dan tries harder than just about anyone I’ve ever met. He’s sincere, trustworthy, loyal to a fault and has a work ethic of a coked up mule. That guy will show up and keep plugging and slugging until the job is done – whatever it may be. He knows computers, machinery, auto and home repair and just about anything else you can think of. The guy is brilliant.

He’s similar to me in that he has a tendency to put people off at first, but after a while a person can’t help liking him. He’s kind and generous and I’ve always thought he was way underappreciated in the comedy world. He does second and third rate gigs because he has poor business and salesmanship skills, as do a lot of talented people. He deserves better.

He can do several celebrity voices dead on, and he always gives everything he’s got in a live show. I think the world of the guy and always have, and it pained me to see him in as much pain as he was. His wife has had some health issues and he needs a job to help get a handle on them. All he wants is a fair chance to work for a living wage to pay his bills.

Apparently his new employer didn’t agree, and now he’s out on his ass. What’s worse is Dan happened to lose an eye during his high school years. It’s funny to make jokes about stuff like that until someone really has to deal with it. Dan has been dealing with it for all the years I’ve known him, and I’ve never ONCE heard the guy complain. He’s a trooper.

What I do see is a guy who helps anyone and everyone, is honest as the day is long, and gets as little in return as anyone I’ve ever seen. I thought I was Mr. Lucky, but Dan has an life obstacle I hope I never have to experience. My respect for him is deep and sincere. He knows what pain and suffering are all about. My little life woes pale in comparison to his.

When a guy like that calls all bummed out, a schmoozing session can wait – even if it’s in Las Vegas with bigwigs. They can keep their wigs on another night and hopefully they can meet me another time. To me, sitting with a friend in need is much more important. I do have a heart, and know what it’s like to suffer myself. Dan was grateful I came, and it felt good to be there when a guy needed someone to talk to. Kindness is a noble pursuit.

To me, showing kindness is the only true pursuit that’s worthwhile in all of life. All else pales in comparison, and I’m ashamed of myself for failing as often as I have. I’d think by now I’d have things figured out, but I still blow all too often and that sure is frustrating.

An act of kindness shown to someone lasts forever. Dan was really bummed out tonight but he told me of things I allegedly did and said twenty years ago that he still remembers, and thanked me all over again. Quite honestly, I didn’t remember but Dan certainly did.

Dan is a kind soul himself and has helped me on many occasions over the years. I have a lot of kind souls in my circle like my cousin Brett and my friend Tim Marszalkowski in Michigan and a whole lot more that if I took time to list would look like a phone book.

These are the people that make me keep the gun out of my mouth every day. Hopefully I have shown enough kindness back to have earned my keep in my little time here on this ugly mean spirited planet full of hate and stupidity. Unfortunately, I’ve thrown my share of that around too, and I deeply regret it. That’s not what I’m about, but some think I am.

I know there are more than a few that think I’m a flaming ass pustule. I try to be good to all I cross paths with, but sometimes clashes occur. I’m not perfect, and not claiming that I am, but I really regret when things go sour with people. That’s why when things get off course, I prefer to just amputate the relationship rather than continue firing live ammo.

Maybe it’s right and maybe it’s wrong, but I’m still learning. Ultimately, I never mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but sometimes they’re just too damn stupid to realize that and I go off on a tangent. That doesn’t make anything right, and I need to learn to curtail that.

This kind of stuff is way deeper than the shallowness of show business. I’d rather be an upstanding human being who shows kindness than a shallow wank with only money and material things. I’m starting to see what’s really important in life and it’s not anything any store sells. It comes from within, and I’m just now getting in touch with that inner power.

Some people I’m never going to reach, at least not in this life plane. My siblings are out of touch and probably out of reach for good, as are Bob and Tom. I’ve really tried to offer sincere apologies to all those people, but they’re not up for taking it. Now I can’t do much more and the ball is way out of my court. If they hate me, so be it. I’m not out of friends.

I’ve got a lot of people I really like and respect that I got to hang with this week. Two of them were Brian McKim and Traci Skene from Shecky Magazine. It’s an online comedy magazine and they’re very good at it. I like Brian and Traci very much and we got to hang out and visit for a while this week. I also saw quite a few comics I hadn’t seen in a while.

The more I plug along in my life, the more I realize I’m doing a lot better than I thought I was. I have a thick list of friends, I work doing what I love and have for my entire adult life. I came to Vegas to network and schmooze, but it turns out I hung out with someone from all the way back in Milwaukee. That’s ok. It’s always good to show some kindness.

Getting My Schlitz Together

March 5, 2010

Thursday March 4th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Ft. Atkinson, WI

It seems like I’m in Milwaukee more now than when I lived there, but that’s where a lot of my business is leading right now. The “Schlitz Happened!” one man show is starting to take shape, but now is when I’m going to have to make some difficult decisions. I need to hash out details and percentages of those I’m working with so there are no ugly surprises.

I’m the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’m also a pigheaded control freak in a situation where creative control is involved. This is MY baby, and I’m very protective of it – especially right now in it’s infancy. I have a vision of how I see it developing and I’m not going to settle for anything less. I’m not so sure the people on my team see that now.

I had a lunch with Ron Lee, the guy who produced comedy shows in the ‘80s at Teddy’s on Farwell, which is now Shank Hall. I like Ron and we’ve worked together over time on some fun and interesting projects, including a cable TV show and also at 93QFM in 1991.

Ron has booked bands and likes to promote things and we have a history of working on many things together. I wanted to meet face to face and discuss what he saw as his role in this project and if I could meet his expectations. He’s been making some calls and setting up meetings without my approval, and quite honestly it bothers me a little. I’m concerned.

It’s not his fault that I got cleaned out by my last business partner, but that whole fiasco is still a fresh welt on my fanny and that’s just fact. I know everyone needs to get paid for their time, and I’m fine with it – but I’m not so sure I really need any partners right now in a project that hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet. It’s promising, but still only an idea.

I’m going to have final say in this particular project. Period. Meeting with sponsors and potential sponsors is something I’ve never really done before, but I need to get experience sometime and that time is coming soon. I’m a little concerned that things are going ahead with potential sponsors without me having met anyone yet. There’s a fine line to toe here.

I don’t care if it’s Ron Lee or Richard Halasz or Colonel Tom Parker, I’m just a bit wary of people negotiating anything ‘on my behalf’. I just am. Maybe that’s the dented can side of me that will always be there, but it’s there and now is the time to set parameters for the duration of this project. If I establish rules now, I’ll either keep or lose everyone involved.

Now is the time to do that, rather than a year from now when money is involved. I like Ron Lee and I like Richard Halasz too, and both of them are working on promoting some upcoming shows. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as to what all of our roles are so nobody is taken aback. Better to talk it out now than have lawyers do it later.

Right now I want to do a few smaller shows and work out the bugs. I have an extremely full cupboard of actual material, now I want to shape it into a dynamite SHOW. It will be a work in progress as long as I do it, but I want to hit the ground running when I begin the bigger shows later in the year. I’ve got a plan of exactly how I see the show developing.

The offstage part is where I’m a little shaky, and I fully admit I’ve never enjoyed doing this part of the business. That’s why I’ve worked with the Ron Lees and the other guy for so long. I let them handle as many unpleasant or uninteresting things as I could so I could focus on what I do best – create things. I think I’m going to have to restructure my M.O.

To their credit, those guys worked with me for free on many occasions. None of us had money, and I’ve never hit any huge jackpots, but I have been able to squeak out a meager living for a quarter of a century. I’ve paid people when I could and what I could, and I’ve always tried to be fair and err on the generous side whenever I could. I’m a softie at heart.

When I got cleaned out it really rocked my world. It still hurts, and it didn’t need to take place at all. If the guy would have asked me, I would have given him the money until he’d be able to pay me back. Now we’re not friends anymore and I’m still out a chunk of cash.

Ron has never stolen money from me, but there really hasn’t been much to steal. After a lot of years of working with me for little or no money, I’d like to see him get a payday for his effort. Maybe I’m too soft, but I want to see all the people around me get their reward.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to give away a percentage of the show though. As much as I like both Ron and Richard, neither of those guys wrote one word of the show or had one ounce of creative input in how it all came together. They can promote shows all they want in as many places as they want, and they should be paid for that. But they’re not owners.

I’M the owner of this concept for now. If I decide to sell it, someone will have to put up cash money on the barrelhead to buy it. Sponsors would be great, but let’s get a hot show set and running first. I also need a synopsis of the concept so those sponsors know what it is so they can either sponsor it or not. I need a few chances to run through to polish it up.

This was a great eye opener today, and I’m glad I drove up. I’m going to go with my gut and my gut tells me to hold this close to my chest and do as much of it myself as possible until I really need to cut anyone else in as far as ownership goes. That’s ringing out loudly in my head and I hear it clearly. No offense to anyone else, but I’ve earned this by now.

I’m in the driver’s seat, and I’m sure it will work how it works. I’m not going to worry about it, and let it sit for a couple of days while I go to Pittsburgh to work in Cranberry at the Funny Bone this weekend. I’ll have plenty of time to think all this through in the car.

Tonight I had a show in Ft. Atkinson, WI at a biker bar that I’ve actually worked before for a comic friend of mine name Dan Still. Steve Sabo books it now, and I didn’t know it was the same place until I got there. They expanded and made it bigger, but it’s still a bar in Ft. Atkinson, WI. I did it for the money, but the people were actually pretty friendly.

Still, these are getting very old. The smoke was thick and my clothes smelled in the car like a non filter Pall Mall cigarette that my grandpa used to smoke. I appreciate the money but I’m hoping to weed these out of my schedule. Soon. I want to work the nicer theaters.