Posts Tagged ‘Donnie B’s Comedy Club’

Blah Blah Blah

March 25, 2014

Monday March 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I know I’m supposed to be showing inner grit and mental toughness right about now, but one’s lowest point is the hardest time to do that. All the Hallmark cards in the world can’t disguise the fact that I’m in a major funk right now, and all the “hang in theres” there are aren’t helping any.

I’m trying hard to objectively examine what set me off and when, and I’m tracing it back to my birthday weekend in Springfield, IL at Donnie B’s Comedy Club. I love working with Donnie B, but it was a slow weekend in a grubby town and that started it. I knew it was the last little run of a spurt of decent work, and I hoped it would be a busy week of jam packed hot shows. It wasn’t.

I know it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and all that. Blah blah blah. I’ve heard excuses for an entire lifetime, and it just gets old. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere on a hot weekend. It’s either the off season, a holiday or the weather screws us, blah blah blah. I’m sick of hearing it all.

This is the time to exhibit mental toughness, but it’s exactly the most difficult time to remain in a positive mindset. There are times when I feel bullet proof and can walk through walls no matter what obstacles I may be facing. Then there are times when I can be knocked over with a feather.

I’m in one of the feather times right now, and that always scares me. No matter who tries to tell me I have even the slightest hint of self worth, I am not able to see it for the life of me. I just feel pain. The scariest thing of all is I thought I found where the source of the pain was coming from.

I guess it was only a part of it. I’m thrilled I was able to get back in touch with my siblings, but there are still a few other holes to fill apparently. That was beyond huge, but now I’ve got to sort out what I’m going to do to survive physically. It boils down to money, and I’m not making any.

My DNA is wired for me to be a creative entity. Period. Working at a ‘real job’ would send me over the edge in two weeks or less. It always has. I hated every job I ever had in high school, and my father, grandmother and even my beloved Gramps used to get on me about being a lazy bum.

Ha! Far from it. I just never wanted to waste my time counting mufflers at Sears (which I really did for several torturous weeks in high school) or working at a fast food greasery or anything but being an entertainer. I love the process of being on stage or on the air – and that’s what I do best.

If someone would just leave me alone to create, I’ll be fine. Every radio job I’ve had has come to an end because some pinhead in management decides to tweak something that doesn’t need to be tweaked, and I’m out. Comedy is the same way. I’m banned from places by people that never took time to know me personally. They only heard about something I did second and third hand, but that was enough to vaporize me from their venues into perpetuity. Stability is only a dream.

Wait, I take that back. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago have been one of the very few places that have backed off and let me do my thing. The results? ZERO problems! Gee, who’d a thunk it? I show up, do my job – very well – and go home. No issues. No politics. No hassles. I love it.

The rest of life doesn’t seem to be able to figure that out, and I’m getting sicker of trying by the day. I’ve never thought I was better than anyone, and I still don’t. I realize I’m one of those artsy fartsy creative types, but it’s who I am and I can’t help it. I wasn’t made to manage a Walmart.

I regularly have self righteous pompous crusaders telling me to “stop being so negative in your blog.” Sorry, but I don’t think it’s their business or anyone else’s. I write about what I feel inside, and sometimes that can be all over the place. I’m human with feelings, and I refuse to sugarcoat.

I know not everyone can relate to being a dented can and what kind of pain that brings, but I’m not writing for everyone. I started just writing for me, but over time I have pleasantly discovered I have a loyal audience that do relate to what I’m going through – and it’s exactly why I persist.

I’m not looking for sympathy or a handout. All I want is to find a way to apply the gifts I have been given to do good and bring happiness to people. That may sound corny, but I mean it from the deepest part of my soul. I want to be known for what I gave, but if I can’t manage to hack out a respectable living how can I do anything worth anyone’s while? All I’m asking for is a chance.

Lewis Black reached a point where he thought he would never make it, but then he got a break on Comedy Central and it launched him. I’m to the point he was, and I’m sure he wasn’t feeling any different than I am right now. From where will my break come? If I knew that, I’d be there.

It used to be that going to New York or L.A. was the answer. I’m not up for that right now. It’s a bit late in the game to go to either one of those places and sleep in a car. I’m almost there here. I’ve been beaten up by life so much, I think it’s affecting my judgment. What to do? I just don’t know. People tell me all the time “Hang in there pal, it WILL happen for you.” But it never does.

All I can feel is the pain and loneliness of a lifetime of wandering – hoping to find my place in a world I never asked to be born. I have always been the outsider since my earliest memory, and that role gets old in a big hurry. Sometimes I think I may finally be hitting stride, and then it’s all an illusion and I’m back at where I started. I’m feeling a lot like Wile E. Coyote right about now.

And don’t get me started on dating. I have gone out with several women in the last few months but nothing has clicked and I feel that’s never going to happen either. The women I like most are either married or not interested in me, and the ones that like me don’t happen to float my boat. It would be terrific to find someone special, but I’m having a hard time just trying to survive life.

It’s all intertwined, and right now everything is a mess. Three months ago I felt like a new man ready to slay all dragons. Now I feel like a piece of crusty dragon poo. These extremes are killing me, but I think I picked the wrong profession to expect stability. What do I do now? I am totally at a loss, and have no idea who to ask. Mental toughness sounds great in theory. I can use some.

What else is there to do but keep slugging? I could swallow a bullet, but I’m not looking to do that. I just want to find my audience and work steadily in top level venues I can sell out with fans that are there to see me. A quality woman in my life would sure be helpful too. Blah blah blah.

Mental toughness sounds great in theory, but at one's lowest point is the hardest time to have it.

Mental toughness sounds great in theory, but at one’s lowest point is the hardest time to have it.

Nobody wants to hear about someone else in a slump. Blah blah blah.

Nobody wants to hear about someone else in a slump. Blah blah blah.

I had a blast appearing on the Craig Ferguson Show. I'd love to do it again.

I had a blast appearing on the Craig Ferguson Show. I’d love to do it again.

Here's a potential slump buster. Can someone clone her please?

Here’s a potential slump buster. Can someone clone her please?

Marketing In Motion

March 16, 2014

Saturday March 15th, 2014 – Springfield, IL

Our worst fears came true this weekend, and the turnout has been small at Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL. There’s not a whole lot anyone can do, as Donnie was out there hitting it hard like he usually does. He’s always got a load of posters in his car, and we made the rounds at the local radio stations as is customary when I’m here. For whatever reason, it was a slow week.

It upsets me when promoters lose money, but especially Donnie B. There just aren’t that many club owners that hustle as hard he does to fill his club, but this just isn’t a ripe market. If he had a club in a big city – and I wish he did – I’d be sitting pretty. Still, I enjoy working for him here.

One thing I especially like is that he has his headliners do an hour rather than the customary 45 minutes. It’s a great workout for me, and I enjoy the challenge. He hosts the shows and promotes what he needs to, and then brings up an opener that does maybe twelve minutes tops. I love that.

It’s great practice for me, and the audiences are usually very friendly and receptive here for the most part. Even this weekend when the numbers weren’t big, each one of the four audiences was really into the show and I had a blast. I made up my mind to give them my very best – and I did.

One thing I need to work on is my sales pitch for merchandise. That’s a tricky procedure, but it needs to be done. It can’t be too long and ‘salesy’, but it needs to get the point across that I’ll be available after the show to meet and greet if they want to say hello. I consciously worked on my presentation all four shows, and it worked splendidly. I ended up selling something every show.

I have to credit my friend James Gregory for planting this seed, and he did it years ago. I have been dabbling in it, but I need to jump in with both feet and DO it. There’s a lot that goes into an effective sales campaign, and it all starts with the pitch from the stage. That’s what I worked on.

I also worked on including all things Uranus. I have some funny prototype t-shirts, and there is no reason I shouldn’t start selling them. I’ve had them for a while, but I never tried to push them from the stage. What a yutz I was, as they’re very well made and really funny. This week I threw them out there, and they were a big hit! It made me very excited when I saw them draw interest.

I know this gimmick is a winner. I can feel it. I sold the point that Uranus was discovered this week in 1781, and that I was starting a club called ‘The Uranus Movement’ for Earth inhabitants that were sick of the insanity here and wanted to escape. I didn’t sell the king just yet, but I will.

I have a book mark that says ‘I (heart) URANUS’, with the heart flipped upside down to look like a butt. Those went over like gangbusters, and I gave away a ton. It has my Twitter account listed which is @UranusTweets. Now that I’m giving these out I need to tweet something daily.

This is all part of the marketing game, and I’m making tremendous strides because I’m making it my focus. My shows are already rock solid, and they were again this weekend. I knocked it out of the park, and that’s not bragging. I know what I’m doing on stage. Offstage is the challenge.

That will come in time too, and it will be sooner than later. I will eventually discover where the exact right place in the show is to include my pitch, and it will be seamless. I’ll learn what to say, and when and how to say it to bring in the most sales. I’m already up there, why not sell product?

There’s no crime if someone doesn’t want to buy anything. I’ll still talk to them and be friendly like I always am. People will see that, and it will add to my sales. I need to organize myself as far as my table display goes as well. That’s going to take some work as well, but I’ll get to that too.

I think there should always be something free available for someone to take home with them as both a souvenir and a promo piece to pass out to their friends. The Uranus book marks are great, but I need something for Mr. Lucky and also the “Schlitz Happened!” show. I’ve got work to do.

I also need to come up with a package deal that people can buy that gets the numbers up. I have a one hour DVD shot in HD with three cameras done by my friend film director Mark Gumbinger. I’ve had it for two years now, but haven’t sold it heavily. What am I, an imbecile? In a word – YES.

I’m smartening up in a hurry, mainly because I need money more now than I ever have. I never felt comfortable selling merchandise before, but those days are over by necessity. I’ve got quite a few products to offer, and they’re not junk. The DVD is better than 99% of what I’ve seen others offer, and I shouldn’t feel ashamed to proudly display it after shows. It was hard work to make it.

Dealing with t-shirts is also a learning experience. The Uranus shirts are very well done, so I’m not ashamed to sell those either. They look professional, and the shirts aren’t those super cheapos like I’ve seen that will disintegrate with a single washing. I spent extra to maintain some quality.

I have six different varieties, but I only brought out three this weekend. That was enough, and I had all I could handle with that. I learned a lot, and it was fascinating to watch people’s dynamic as they decided what they wanted to buy. I sat back and shut my mouth so I could observe it all.

Sizes are always a part of shirt sales. I had two moms buy shirts for their teenagers, and wanted mediums. I only have XL, and even though that wasn’t what they wanted they bought because of the Uranus gimmick. Another guy wanted a 2XL, and I didn’t have that either. For the future I’m going to have to figure it out, but I will. Even getting it this far was a victory. I’ll keep working.

Price is another issue that’s going to take work. I charged $15 each for the shirts and DVDs, or both for $25. That’s a lot of money in my book, and I have to get that out of my mind as quickly as possible. I would always sell my CDs for $10, but I’ve seen people sell theirs for $15 and $20.

That extra money adds up, and I forced myself to smile and say the price rather than add “ But I’ll give them to you both for $10”. I have to learn to value myself and my products, and I’m on my way to doing that. In a very short time I can see myself having a system in place that works.

This weekend was a flop attendance wise, but a raging success in the fact that I was able to put a marketing plan into action and still give those that did show up hot shows. Thumbs up Uranus!

The great James Gregory may be trying to look crazy in this picture, but he's hands down THE best comedian marketer I have ever seen.

The great James Gregory may be trying to look crazy in this picture, but he’s hands down THE best comedian marketer I have ever seen.

His fans adore him, and I can see why. He's all about them, and gives them what they want. He's the king. www.funniestman.com.

His fans adore him, and I can see why. He’s all about them, and gives them what they want. He’s the real king. http://www.funniestman.com.

Heywood Banks runs a close second. Despite the cultivated crazy look, there's a razor sharp mind in there.

Heywood Banks runs a close second. Despite the cultivated crazy look, there’s a razor sharp mind in there. He gets it.

His CDs are hilarious, and he's got other stuff too. Check him out at www.heywoodbanks.com.

His CDs are hilarious, and he’s got other stuff too. Find him at http://www.heywoodbanks.com.

I'm modeling my own marketing after the best. I'm working on my cultivated crazy look.

I’m modeling my own marketing after the best. I’m working on my cultivated crazy look, and a varied product line is to follow.

Want a free book mark? Send me a mailing address and I'll send you as many as you like.

Want a free book mark? Send me a mailing address and I’ll send you as many as you can handle. Get BEHIND The Uranus MOVEMENT!

Making The Radio Rounds

October 29, 2013

Friday October 25th, 2013 – Springfield, IL

I’m back in Springfield, IL this week at one of my all time favorite stops, Donnie B’s Comedy Club. I’ve always enjoyed working here, and this week is no exception. Donnie B is a hustler of epic proportions, and I mean that in only the most respectful way. He’s a fantastic entrepreneur.

I don’t think I have ever seen a comedy club owner work as hard as he does to get the word out and keep it out. He’s got a car full of posters and flyers and coupons, and everywhere I go I’ll see his club mentioned somewhere. That guy knows how to promote, and he deserves all his success.

Unfortunately, he didn’t pick the greatest town to work his magic and he’s not living in the lap of luxury like I think he should be. The economy has hit him like most everyone else, and he’s in the same boat as almost everyone who has their own business. He’s busting ass just to stay even.

He runs a bar and restaurant in the hotel where his club is located, and that keeps him busy for most of the week. Comedy shows are Friday and Saturday, and he runs the comedians around to get on four radio stations on Friday mornings. Nobody could ever accuse Donnie of being lazy.

I made it into town last night, and was glad to do the four radio interviews. That’s what gets the word out, and even if people don’t come out this week at least it’s awareness for the club. I can’t believe how many club owners and comedians alike don’t realize how crucial radio exposure is.

We did an AM sports station, the classic rock station, the oldies station and the hot hits station “Kiss FM”. Everyone was very nice, and I tried to talk fast and say “Donnie B’s Comedy Club” as many times as humanly possible. Donnie knows I know what I’m doing, and I could see a big smile on his face every time I’d mention the club or plug the shows. A lot of comics don’t get it.

Like it or not, a comedian and a club owner are in business together for the week. It’s not smart to have a hostile relationship, as it will hurt everyone. If the club can get a dozen media outlets to have the comedian on, the comedian needs to get up and go no matter how early or inconvenient.

Another thing I respect about Donnie is that he hosts his own shows. Who else but the owner is able to extol the virtues of a business, and that’s what he does. He talks about drink specials and upcoming events, and personally greets the regulars that happen to show up on a particular night.

He books an opening act to do a very short set – usually about 12-15 minutes tops. It works for him, and I for one am a fan of this system. It might not be the greatest for developing local talent, but from an audience’s standpoint it’s a very solid show. He’s not in the business to develop acts, he’s in business to sell tickets, food and drinks. I grasp that a lot more now than when I started.

Donnie makes no bones about the fact that he’s in business to earn a living. I have no problem with that, and we get along great. He knows I’ll deliver on stage, and I know my check won’t be short or bounce at the end of the week. If every club was this cut and dried, life would be peachy.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t look to be a great weekend due to Halloween and the World Series. Sometimes circumstances can kill even the best of promoters, but at least we did all we can do.

Donnie B's Comedy Club in Springfield, IL is one of the best run comedy clubs in America. www.funnybonecomedyclub.com

Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL is one of the best run comedy clubs in America. http://www.funnybonecomedyclub.com

Donnie B’s Gets An A

November 25, 2012

Friday November 23rd, 2012 – Springfield, IL

   I am thoroughly delighted to be making a return to Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL this weekend. I can’t say enough good things about this place, and I wish every last comedy club in America would take lessons from Donnie B on both how to run a business and people skills.

This guy just knows how to do it right. I loved it the last time I was here, and it was even better this time around. He has since changed locations, and now the club and hotel are side by side in a place called the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center. That’s always a welcomed convenience.

The other club was very nice as was the hotel, but being in the same building makes it so much easier. I can go back to the room between shows and relax, take a shower, whatever. I also don’t have to worry about getting to the club in traffic, finding parking or many other annoying things.

An example of how well Don pays attention to detail, when I checked into my hotel room there was a business card sized piece of paper in with my room key card letting me know the club was now located in the hotel and their hours of operation. How smart is that? Every club that’s part of a hotel complex should absolutely do the same, but I’ve very rarely seen it done in all my years.

The new room seats about 100 more people than the other one, and there was a much healthier audience for the first show than I expected on a holiday weekend. Not only were there more than I expected, they were polite and smart and ready to laugh. Don hosts the shows and warms up his audiences, and also trains them how to behave during the shows. Over time, this pays a dividend.

The late show wasn’t as well attended, but there were still a respectable number who were also there to see a show. The typical late show Friday in a comedy club can be a babysitting of drunks but not here. They were totally into the show, and I had an absolute blast – so much so that I took it upon myself to see how much different material I could pull out since Donnie B was watching.

Not many club owners watch all the shows, but Donnie B is not the typical owner. He wants to see how his audiences react to the comedians he uses so he knows who to bring back. He knows who his clientele is, and busts his ass to please them so they’ll keep coming back. And they do.

I also thought it was good practice to stretch out a little and use some material I hadn’t used in a while to keep in practice. I’d say I was able to do 95% different material in the late show, and it felt great to do that – especially knowing that headliners need to do 60 rather than 45 minute sets. That’s another smart move on his part. He gives the audience more comedy and less bad openers.

I really had fun both shows tonight, and as I was on stage I wished it could be like this in every club in every town. I know I won’t have to fight for my pay at the end of the week, and it will be the exact amount we agreed on. There will be no hassles, and that’s exactly how it should work.

It doesn’t, and that’s just how it is. I will enjoy this weekend as much as I can, and hope I’ll be able to make this a regular stop for a long time. Now, I just have to find 51 more weeks like this.