Posts Tagged ‘Dwayne Kennedy’

It Takes A Champion

June 26, 2014

Tuesday June 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

If I have learned nothing else from my life’s long twisted journey, it’s that making one’s living exclusively as an entertainer for any significant amount of time is nothing less than a big old, icy cold, rock hard, unforgiving, unrelenting, cruel, nasty, fire breathing seven days a week BITCH.

Anyone that has lasted more than ten years has my undying respect, and then there are the lifer types like me that have gone past any and all ‘normal’ boundaries, and find ourselves desperately hanging on for dear life from week to week despite having sacrificed our lives to polish our craft.

My particular scope of view has been standup comedy, radio and professional wrestling. I have friends in each of those areas that have been at it for decades and are either struggling to hang on even a little bit longer or feverishly looking for something else so they can continue to survive.

And I know there are other fields like actors, dancers, musicians, magicians, film makers and a few more categories I’m sure I missed that are in this same (sinking) boat. We’ve devoted our all to our crafts, but never “made it big”. That term is so unfair, and it’s never about who is the best.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until someone hears me – there are all kinds of talented people at any given craft that are virtual unknowns, and quite often those with minimal talent manage to claw and scratch their way to the top by having razor sharp focus and wanting the spotlight more.

It takes almost a psychotic obsession to hit the big time in any creative endeavor, or a once in a lifetime streak of amazing luck. Or both. That’s rare enough, but now find a way to keep yourself around for more than a few months or even a year. Trust me, it’s NOT easy and most people fail.

In the comedy field, I can easily name dozens of really solid acts that just never found a way to get that break we all need. There are all kinds of reasons for it, but that doesn’t mean they are not talented – and solid citizens as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter in this vicious death race.

Names that pop into my mind off the bat include Dwight York, Don Reese, Dwayne Kennedy, Larry Reeb, Tim Walkoe, Jimmy McHugh, Beth Donahue, James R. Zingelman, Tim Northern, Danny Storts and Ron Ferguson. For every one of those names there are a dozen more, and I will stop naming because I know I’m excluding a friend that I like and respect. But you get the idea.

This all started when I got a phone call today from Rick D’Elia – another highly respected road warrior I love onstage and off. What a classy chap he is, and funny too. He is originally from the Boston area, but has been living on the west coast for years. We met in 2003 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition and have stayed in touch. He’s out there still slugging it out just like me.

He’s driving across the country, and working a week in Oklahoma this week to earn money to get himself home. He’s getting thrown out of his apartment for subletting while he was out trying to make a living in the crumbling comedy business, and he needs to find a place when he returns. I love Rick like a brother, and could totally empathize with his situation. This is why I have zero patience for cocky know-it-alls that have paid zero dues. The show business meat grinder is not for everyone. My heart goes out to Rick and everyone else still in the game. It takes a champion.

Rick D'Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They're ALL great, and deserve a break. www.rickdelia.com.

Rick D’Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They’re ALL great, and deserve a break. They’ve paid big dues. http://www.rickdelia.com.

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Out Of Body

December 12, 2012

Tuesday December 11th, 2012 – Rockford, IL

   As crazy and frustrating as my life has been and even with the high degree of disappointment I tend to feel on a regular basis, the one constant I can hang my hat on is that I love what I do on a consistent basis. I may not love the financial compensation, but my creative hunger is satisfied.

I know there aren’t many people who can say that, and I love that part of my life. It’s probably the only thing that keeps me from jumping into an active volcano – that and not knowing of any active volcanoes in my immediate vicinity. The point is that without this passion I’d be history.

I thought of it today as I was on the radio on WNTA in Rockford, IL. My friend Jim McHugh tagged along, and it’s even more fun doing the show when he’s in the studio. We were bantering back and forth and having a blast, and I had an out of body experience and saw the big picture.

Jay Leno talked about that in an interview many years ago. He said he knew his act so well that at a certain point he could think about something completely different like what he might have to eat after the show or his dry cleaning while he was on stage performing. That concept fascinated me, even though I couldn’t comprehend it then. I was still trying to master the basics of comedy.

Then one night out of nowhere, I was doing the exact same thing. It’s like I jumped right out of my body and was in my own audience as I was performing. I was free to think about anything or nothing, and knowing that took everything to a much higher level. I felt I was finally “getting it”.

Radio can be like that too. It’s a performance, and there’s a buzz attached to it just like comedy – although it’s not as intense. Comedy is a short powerful jolt that’s an hour or less while radio is longer and steadier. A good radio show buzz can last up to four hours and be quite the intoxicant.

Today it was only a two hour shift, but we were firing on all cylinders and it was tremendously fun on several levels. It’s great to hang out with Jim, and the producer Howard Bailey Murray is both competent and a genuinely nice person. The vibe in the studio could not have been better.

We took it even higher by inviting our friend and fellow Chicago comedian Dwayne Kennedy on to plug the TV show he’s writing for and to get some air time. Dwayne is a comedic genius of the highest order, and Jim and I are both fans. Dwayne doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves.

Jim also invited singer Emily Hurd to join us. She’s from Rockford originally, and an amazing talent in her own right. She writes her own material and has a powerful voice, and any time I am able to promote somebody locally I always will. Her work is available at www.emilyhurd.com.

As we were on the air, I had one of those out of body experiences and was able to see just how cool it was to be doing what we were doing. I was in a studio with friends that I like and respect, talking to others I like and respect on the phone. I have no idea who was listening, but I know at least somebody was because we got calls the entire time we were on the air. I didn’t get rich, but I did get paid and have been asked to come back tomorrow. I’m on the right track. More of this.

California Dreaming

October 14, 2012

Friday October 12th, 2012 – California, PA

   As Jerry Reed said years ago – “When you’re hot, you’re hot.”  I’ve seen it work the other way too, and I sure wish I knew what causes hot and cold streaks but I have no idea. I’ve experienced both, and hot is definitely better. I wish I could control the flow, but I haven’t found out how yet.

Jim McHugh called about a month ago to ask if I was available for a booking in California, PA tonight with his Chicago Comedy All Stars group. Any time Jim calls with work, it’s a cut above the comedy club grind and I gladly say yes. Even though I’d never even heard of California, PA in all my years of being a road warrior, I said yes immediately. Work is at a premium these days.

Jim was asked to put together a standup comedy show at California University by a connection he has in Iowa who knew someone at the school who wanted to do a show for their homecoming weekend. That’s how it works, and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. Jim was in the right place at the right time, and he got the call. He called me, and I was in the right place at the right time too.

How this all breaks down on a large scale in the universe I can’t begin to wrap my marble sized intellect around, but I know it’s cosmic and beyond my control. I was thrilled Jim thought to give me a call at all, as it turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

Also on the show besides Jim and myself were Sonya White and Dwayne Kennedy. That’s one of the most rock solid and diverse lineups I can imagine, and we proceeded to tear the roof off of the gorgeous new facility where we were booked. It was built earlier this year, and it’s beautiful.

They treated us like rock stars from the second we got there, and we had a dressing room with a deli tray and everything. The people in charge couldn’t have been nicer, and Jim couldn’t have chosen any nicer comedians to work with. Sonya and Dwayne are both sweethearts to work with, and their acts are solid as well. Jim knows what he’s doing, and we all knew this would be great.

The audience was mostly locals, and they came out to laugh. Jim hosted the show, and the rest of us could see it was a red hot crowd in about thirty seconds. We were each told to do about 25 minutes, which is a night off for all of us who are headliners and used to doing 45 minute sets.

One by one, we lit that audience up and we all knew what a special night this was and enjoyed every second of it. It doesn’t always work this way, and when it does it’s pure ecstasy. We really knocked it out of the park, and at the end of the show we were all on stage together and received a standing ovation. It was the right people on the right night, and everyone walked out happy.

After the show, people lined up to get our autographs and we stood around signing the backs of people’s tickets for probably twenty minutes. It was just like the stereotypical dream that most of us have about how show business is before we get brought back to earth with a sickening thud.

This was one night when we lived that dream, and it couldn’t have been with nicer people. We all have paid our dues and were able to appreciate every bit of it. This is what keeps us all going.

Double Exposure

May 25, 2010

Monday May 24th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI/Chicago, IL

Any time a comedian can get on radio or TV, it’s a good thing. Today I did both. First it was a radio appearance on WLIP in Kenosha, WI – the same station on which I’m the host of ‘The Mothership Connection’ on Sunday nights. There’s a show in the afternoon called ‘Happenings Q & A’. It’s hosted by Frank Carmichael, who owns Happenings magazine.

It’s amazing what a small world it is. I’d heard the show many times, as that’s what was on as I was learning to run the control board at WLIP for my show. I’d heard of Frank for a long time before that, because he published the magazine. Still, it never occurred to me that he’s the brother of a comedian named Kurtis Carmichael who I knew from years ago.

He was a competent comedian, but his ‘fame’ came from being a TV Bozo The Clown in Milwaukee and getting kicked off the air for being too suggestive. He caused a big stir when he did it, and I remember watching it a few times back when he was on in the ‘80s. It probably wasn’t meant for kids, but I laughed really hard. He was the original Krusty.

Kurtis was a funny guy and I always liked him, but his real flair was for business. He’s one of the most entrepreneurial people I know, and he was always telling me about what he had going. He used to have a fleet of motorized ice cream tricycles and hire people to drive them near the beach and sell ice cream for him. I always admired his money sense.

I haven’t seen Kurtis Carmichael in years, but as soon as Frank said he had a brother in comedy, I immediately knew who it was. They look similar, and it hit me right away that it had to be Kurtis. Evidently the opportunity bug bit Frank too, as he’s had the magazine for years. Good for both of them. I always enjoy hearing entrepreneurial success stories.

Tonight I filmed a pilot for a standup TV show that was held at Zanies in Chicago. The show was run by Bert Haas, directly from a conversation he and I had on the way back to Chicago from Hot Springs, AR last summer. I think there’s room for another show like it, as many came and went during the ‘80s and ‘90s. This is just an old idea done over again.

The good part is, it’ll have comedians that aren’t the Hollywood mainstays. There are a ton of undiscovered comedians between the coasts who are too busy working to be on one of the coasts trying to get discovered. Those are the people Bert and I interact with daily.

I have nothing to do with the production of it per se, but Bert made me part of the pilot anyway. He didn’t have to do that, and I sure appreciate it. The taping went very well and it was loaded with great acts from Tim Walkoe to Dwayne Kennedy to a dozen more that totally deserved to be included. I hope this show takes off, I think it’s got some potential.

Today was a good day all around. It was fun if nothing else, but I think it was more. I’m sure both of these contacts will pay dividends in the future, and I appreciate it that both of them would include me in their projects. This is what building a network is all about, and the whole idea is to help each other grow. Two healthy contact seeds were planted today.