Posts Tagged ‘dignity’

My Own Space

June 24, 2014

Sunday June 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m back from my bittersweet weekend in Sparta, WI and am ready to move forward. It’s fun to visit good friends, and Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo are as good as they get. Jim’s family treats Bill and I like we’re in the will, but on the down side doing difficult shows for tiny audiences is a self esteem sucker and a dignity drainer. At this time in my life I just don’t need to be doing this.

Jim and Bill get it. They’ve been doing comedy for decades just as I have, and they know how I feel. Bill has been a high school teacher for years now, and has already made his transition into being able to do comedy when he feels like it. It works for him. I’m not so sure it works for me.

Jim could see that I was less than thrilled with the shows this weekend, and he took me aside at least four or five times to strongly suggest that I find my own space and start promoting my own shows. He said it should be a place where I can live as well so all my energy can stay in one spot. He’s done it himself more than once, and said it can be an exciting experience plus creative bliss.

There’s a comedian named Chris Speyrer that did exactly what Jim speaks of in the small town of Mason City, IL. That’s the home town of another funny comic named John Means – aka “Dr. Gonzo.” John and his wife owned a restaurant on the main drag, and Chris bought a building on the same block and has been able to keep the doors open several years now. I congratulate him.

Mason City is tiny, but it’s within driving distance of Peoria and Springfield and Chris books a lot of his headliners from the Bob and Tom radio show which is on in both of those cities. He has been smart to do that, and kudos to him for taking the plunge. That took a lot of guts on his part.

I’m not sure if a town that small would be to my personal liking, but there are all kinds of other options in a lot of other places. I have been wondering for years now how I could get off the road but still get on stage regularly, and my own place would be a way to do it. It would solve a lot of problems – but create a lot more. I’m fine with that at this point, and would enjoy the challenge.

I don’t know if I can find a place that I can live as well as do shows, as everything would have to be ideal for that to happen. I don’t have any money to buy any buildings, but that’s never been my goal. I just want to do standup comedy shows on a regular basis for people that want to enjoy what I do. I don’t want to have to fight drunks or drive 1000 miles to get there. Does that exist?

Between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford, I have to believe there has to be at least one facility that would be able to fit my needs. Ideally it would seat around 100 comfortably, and in theory I’d be able to work there every single week of the year for several years if I’d want to.

If I could attract audiences, why would I not want to? I’ve said before that 100 people a night for multiple nights in a week can provide a very nice living. I’m not greedy, and I wouldn’t need anything else to survive quite nicely. In an area that’s populated, it would take years for everyone to see the show in a 100 seat room and I could keep it going indefinitely. Mr. Wiggins was right.

I see this theory both in Milwaukee for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and somewhere near the Chicago area that’s not near a Zanies club. I wouldn’t attempt to compete with them because for one I couldn’t, and also they have been great to me for a lifetime. There are plenty of other joints in that squared circle, and I’m up for trying to get my own thing going. If I had two dozen in my own audience, there would be only one person to blame. That I could live with. I like Jim’s idea!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought a building and started his own venue. Smart!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought his own building and started his own comedy venue. Smart!

If you are ever near Mason City, IL go see his club. www.mclimits.com

If you’re ever near Mason City, IL visit Chris’s club. http://www.mclimits.com

The Silver Fox

February 1, 2013

Tuesday January 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was saddened today to learn of the passing of a comedian I worked with many years ago from New Orleans named John Schnauder. We only worked together a couple of times, but he remains one of my all time favorite human beings I’ve ever crossed paths with. He was a wonderful soul.

We first worked together in Jacksonville, FL in the mid ‘80s at a club called The Punch Line. It was part of a chain that started from of the original Punch Line in Atlanta, and there were about a dozen clubs throughout the Southeast during the heyday. It was a great run of well paying work.

I was booked as the opening act with John being the feature. Shirley Hemphill from the sitcom “What’s Happening” was the headliner, and the first real celebrity I had ever worked with for an entire week. She was kept in a nice hotel, and John and I shared a week in the ‘comedy condo’.

There could and should be a book written about what goes on in comedy condos, but that’s not the focus right now. All it is is an apartment where comedians stay when they’re in town to work a comedy club. It’s an investment for the club rather than spending money to keep us in hotels.

Anyway, I got to spend that whole week getting to know John and I liked him more by the day. He was in his 50s then, MUCH older than the average comedian of that day – especially one that wasn’t a headliner. He had raised a family of seven children, and decided he wanted to live out a dream and be a comedian. He was very humble, and absolutely loved everything about comedy.

Most comedians – me included – get into comedy to fill an ugly void we never were able to fill at home with our families or lack thereof. John was completely different. He was no dented can, and that’s probably what I liked about him. He was warm and friendly, and it was contagious not only to me but to audiences too. He was extremely likeable, and loaded with charisma to boot.

He billed himself as ‘The Silver Fox’ of comedy, and his New Orleans accent was up front and a big part of who he was. I’ve often said how much I can’t stand that smelly hell hole personally, but that doesn’t mean I can’t like the people who come from there. They’re extremely friendly.

John Schnauder falls into this category, and we really hit it off that week. We were able to stay in touch for a few years, but this was before the internet when that was a lot more difficult to do. I hadn’t seen him in years, but I thought of him when his beloved New Orleans Saints made it to the Super Bowl. That alone caused me to cheer for them, and when they won I smiled for John.

John’s granddaughter Rhiannon Schnauder Perry informed me of his passing, and I posted my condolences to the family via the guest book. There was a large album of photographs from his life that really touched me, as most of them were him next to his kids or grandchildren and there were smiles on everyone’s faces. His love and radiance just shined through. He was a mensch of epic proportions, and just because he never hit the big time in show business doesn’t mean he is anything less than an outstanding success and winner in the game of life. He lived his dream, but also had a loving family. To me, that’s true success. Much respect to The Silver Fox. I miss him.