Posts Tagged ‘disappointment’

Buffet Of Danger

July 30, 2014

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction.

I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability.

Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch.

She doesn’t look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?

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Disappointment Double Check

November 7, 2013

Wednesday November 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I’m still dusting myself off after last night’s wrecking ball of disappointment, but there are lots of lessons to be learned here – both by me and by new comedians coming up the ranks. This was a frightening example of what happens when a product isn’t marketed properly. It’s sure death.

The problem last night was anything but the product. That was one of THE strongest lineups of Chicago standup comedy I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been around the block more than a few times. It was a magnificent lineup of talent, but unfortunately it wasn’t in front of the proper audience.

Comedians from “the golden era” of the ‘80s – and I’m just as guilty as anybody else – tend to be stuck in those days when it comes to marketing savvy. We didn’t have to do any marketing at all then, as comedy clubs were hip, trendy and it didn’t matter who was on the bill. People came out to laugh, and they usually did. Even if they didn’t remember the acts’ names, they had fun.

That was our first mistake. We wrongly assumed it would go on forever like that, and it would be a gravy train into perpetuity. The clubs were marketing themselves as a destination where the customer would have a good time. Rarely if ever did they market specific comedians. Red flag.

The ads always went something like “Come out to the Wacky Shack Comedy Corral and have a few laughs.” They would advertise drink specials before they’d advertise who’s there, and only then it would be the headlining act. Any of the openers’ names would never see the light of day.

Times were good then, so comedians could make a decent living without much effort and they rode that horse into the ground. They didn’t look at it like a business as a rule, and thought there was some kind of magic dust that would keep the money coming in forever. What idiots we were as a collective, and looking back I was in there myself. I thought I had a clue, but I totally didn’t.

VERY few comedians did, but those are the ones that did well. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are the two shining examples from that era who were outstanding business people from day one. The third member of the business holy trilogy I always acknowledge is James Gregory. He’s up there too, and has always had my utmost respect. James marketed himself before he was a headliner.

He sold cassette tapes and t-shirts and baseball caps, and catered to his fans like few others I’ve ever seen. He was a tremendous salesman, and I mean it as a huge compliment. He’s a really funny comic, but as I saw last night that alone won’t cut it. James knew from the start to sell his wares.

Part of the process of selling those wares is doing the unsexy things like having a website with a mailing list and current schedule of dates, and constantly working to keep one’s name out there and get more work. That was unheard of when I started but too bad for me. That’s the game now.

I’m thrilled to be able to call James a friend all these years later, and he calmly – and correctly – pointed out that he checked out the websites of all of us on the show last night and none had the show promoted on our sites. GUILTY. I’ve been working with my web guy Mark Filwett to have a total site redesign, but it’s still not there yet. It’s my fault because I’ve been up to my ass with a lot of other things, but nobody cares about that. I need to do better, and there are ZERO excuses.

Human nature can be one’s own biggest enemy, and it’s easy to fall into old habits – especially the bad ones. We as old timers were used to just showing up and getting paid. We did it for years and years, and stupidly assumed that circumstances would never change. That’s business suicide.

What business can last in today’s shark tank world with a business plan from twenty years ago or worse – no plan at all? What if McDonald’s had not evolved like they did over time and added menu items like salads, latte or a breakfast menu? They’d be with Howard Johnson’s – obsolete.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen to some really talented standup comedians, and I’m on a personal crusade that it won’t be me. There is a fire lit under my ass after last night that is red hot and I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I need to get it in gear and move ahead.

This should be a loud clear air raid siren warning blast for all newbies getting or thinking about getting into standup comedy. Yes it’s important to work on your funny, but work on the business side just as much if not more than the comedy side. Without both, you’ll end up in a club nobody wants to be in like the guys at Zanies last night. We all have great acts, but we don’t have a draw.

It takes work to build that draw, and it’s getting more difficult by the day. There are more and more wannabes coming out of the wood work, and it’s harder not only to be seen but to obtain a sufficient amount of quality stage time to develop a sellable act. If nothing else, I did have that.

And part of therein lies the problem. Stage time was easy when I came up, and we all assumed it would be plentiful forever. Other than those few like Jay, Jerry and James, we all farted around when we should have been building our brand. Kudos to those who figured it out early. I didn’t.

Now my biggest fear is that I didn’t figure it out too late. I’ve spent long hard years building an act that can rock a room from coast to coast, but if I don’t have anyone who wants to pay to see it I’m out of business. Zanies has been great to me for many years, but if they cut me loose I would really be in a world of hurt. I need to build MY brand, and team up with venues that can sell it.

I’m on the right track with my “Schlitz Happened!” show about growing up in Milwaukee. It’s a very specialized and regional brand, but those who will like it will really become fans. It would be difficult to sell it anywhere outside of Wisconsin, but there are enough people there where I’ll be able to carve out a very nice chunk of business for myself and claim a territory. I’m ok with it.

This is not the ‘80s anymore. As much as those of us who lived through those times as comics hate to admit that, we all need to wake up and realize we’re in a whole new world. We do have a nice advantage in that we have an actual product to sell whereas the newbies are trying to market the hell out of nothing. We’ve actually got something to sell, but most of us don’t execute it well.

I’m going to model myself after people like James, and even Jay and Jerry. They played their game on the big stage in Hollywood, and that ship may have already sailed for me. James played his hand out of his home town of Atlanta. It’s a great town, and he’s a king there. Is there anything wrong with that? Not in my book. Atlanta money spends just as nicely as Hollywood or Chicago money. He’s built a great business, and continues to work it masterfully. http://www.funniestman.com is where we can all learn from a master. I am grateful for his support, guidance and inspiration.

James Gregory has been ahead of the game for decades. A great comedian, but a world class marketer. He gets it. I need to model his methods. www.funniestman.com

James Gregory has been ahead of the game for decades. A great comedian, but a world class marketer. He gets it. I need to model his methods. http://www.funniestman.com

2004 No More

February 1, 2013

Thursday January 31st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Somewhere in my scrambled rat race of a life there needs to be a master plan. I thought I had at least a loose one at one point, but I’m nowhere close to making it how I’d pictured. Life was on a steady path upward with a bright future in 2004 when I was working on the morning show at The Loop in Chicago. I was on the cusp of having everything I ever wanted – but life had other plans.

I still don’t know why we got so close to pay dirt and then had it yanked out from under us for no real reason other than the company got sold and the new owners were clueless hillbillies. That wasn’t our fault, but it sure did affect the futures of my partners and me. We’re all still suffering.

Granted, that was years ago and I know we all need to “just get over it already” like everybody keeps telling us but opportunities of that magnitude don’t come along every day. We were poised for a nice long run, and chances are we’d still be on the air today. That was the plan when we got hired, and it was starting to go exactly how it was intended until the sale happened unexpectedly.

Eric and Kathy is the biggest morning radio show in Chicago, and they were a sister station of ours. The plan was they’d get the female listeners and we’d get the males. Fine with us, but radio for the most part has about as much stability as a Kardashian marriage and we were out the door.

OK, fine. But what’s next? I’ve been through plans B, C, D and so many others that I’m almost through the alphabet and back to plan A again. I don’t know what’s more frustrating, not coming close to one’s life goals or coming within striking distance of achieving them all and not doing it.

All I have ever wanted in my adult life was to be a successful standup comic with enough fans that come out to see me that earns me a nice living. My standards are low, and it wouldn’t take a whole lot to make me financially secure for life. I know I have the ability, it just hasn’t hit yet.

I was well on my way in 2004. We were starting to get recognized on the air, and I could feel it at the comedy clubs in and around Chicago. I was getting on stage constantly, and Zanies wanted to sign me to an exclusive deal for great pay to work several times a year. The station was setting up a huge charity comedy event for New Year’s Eve of 2004 and I was going to be the headliner.

None of that ever happened, and here I sit with my education trying to scrape up enough to pay my rent every month and not drive a car I got for free from a friend of mine that keeps costing all I have to keep it running. That sure wasn’t what I was picturing I’d be doing now back in 2004.

The truth is everyone has their own 2004 somewhere. There’s always woulda, coulda, shouldas in all our lives, but it’s what we do afterward that defines who we are. As much as I hate to admit it even now, they’re not going to call me back and admit they made a mistake. That ship sailed.

But what’s the new one? I still like performing on stage and on air, but who’s passing out jobs these days? I’m still out there slugging, but the circumstances are a lot different than they used to be. I’m older and it’s getting harder to stay in the race. I hope the only break I’ll get isn’t my hip.

No Apocalypse For You

December 23, 2012

Friday December 21st, 2012 – St. Charles, IL

   Well, no apocalypse today. I wonder if anyone else is disappointed. A good old fashioned end of the world as we know it life vaporizing cosmic explosion would have been the ideal way for a pathetic planet filled with ignorance, imbeciles and insanity to go out and wipe the slate clean.

Now we’re really doomed. The sky high pile of problems we already have will continue to get higher and fester, and millions worldwide will continue to suffer slowly and painfully. A gigantic blast from the cosmos would have been the most humane way to euthanize a bunch of monkeys.

I wish I had more faith in our planet and those who inhabit it, but I totally don’t. There are just too many idiots per capita for my liking, and I can’t believe I asked to be born here. According to many, we all choose our circumstances before we’re born, and then have to live out our destiny.

The first time I heard that theory, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t imagine anyone choosing a life of unpleasant struggle like so many of us get, but apparently there are reasons for it. We need the experiences we go through to learn important lessons, and apparently those lessons are crucial.

Depending on the source, many people believe there absolutely is reincarnation and all of this is part of a bigger picture. I’ve read so much and heard so many opinions that I don’t know what to believe at this point. All I can say for certain is that I don’t know – and it’s all anyone can say.

Why the world is the way it is is beyond anyone’s comprehension, but I for one am not a fan of how it’s being run on a high level. The human animal is a flawed beast in my opinion, and I have no idea how we’ve survived as long as we have as a species. We continue to mangle all we touch and quite frankly it doesn’t look good for the future. A clean ending would have been a blessing.

But alas, it didn’t happen. We’re left here to our own primal urges, and basically all we are are a bunch of monkeys throwing poo. We claim to be sophisticated, but then we let petty little tripe get in the way and continue to cause and perpetuate wars that destroy this beautiful planet we’ve been given to live on. We’re like a bunch of six year olds fighting over crayons, and I’m over it.

I don’t claim to be perfect, and never have. I don’t think I’m any better than the rest of the idiot brigade, and that’s pretty disappointing as well. I aspire to such greatness in my mind, but in real life I’m just another one of the monkeys trying to find one more banana. It’s not what I pictured.

That being said, life goes on. Good or bad, right or wrong, we’re still here. For how long could be anyone’s guess, but for the moment we’ve still got air in our lungs. What will we do with it? I for one want to make the best of whatever time I have left, and I look upon now on as bonus time for everyone on the planet. I can only control my part of it, but I intend to put forth a good effort.

Tonight I had two solid shows at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL. Both audiences were great laughers, and I reached back and gave them every last drop of what I had to give. I enjoyed every minute of it, and if I have to remain on this planet a while longer I’ll do what gives me joy.