Posts Tagged ‘Dwight York’

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.

Five Funny Friends

September 27, 2013

Thursday September 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Oh, to have even a teaspoon of power and influence in this out of control tilt-a-whirl known as the entertainment business. I don’t want it so much for me, but to be able to showcase as many of my talented friends and colleagues as possible. That would give me as big of a kick as if I did it.

That’s one of the reasons I was such a rabid fan of Johnny Carson – or at least his position. His show was a launching pad for a lot of acts, but especially comedians. He seemed to enjoy putting people on and letting the public discover their talent, and I would love to be able to do it as well.

On a far smaller scale, any time I’ve had radio shows I have always tried to put as many of my talented friends as I could on the air. I love to be able to let them shine and have their moment in the sun, and I have always been secure enough in my own skin to not have to always be the star.

I talked to my friend Dwight York yesterday, and he’s a shining example of exactly what I am talking about. Dwight is one of my absolute favorite comedians ever, and a super guy to boot. It boggles my mind why he isn’t a big star, and if had even a little influence he’d be one tomorrow.

He’s delightfully sick and twisted, and an absolutely brilliant joke writer. He has a book called “The Vile File” which is a catalog of his best work, and he has a hilarious CD as well. Dwight is also one of the hardest workers around, yet he doesn’t seem to get his due. I don’t understand it.

Check him out and see if you don’t agree he’s fantastic. His website is http://www.dwightyork.com, and if you get a minute send him an email and tell him I told you to say hello. You’ll be a fan for life like I am, and make it a point to see him whenever you can. He never fails to make me laugh.

Another guy I’m in awe of is Don Reese. Don is another dark and twisted hombre, and I mean that in a very positive way. He loves monster movies, and looks like he could star in one. I have always wanted to book a tour with Dwight, Don and another comic named Dan Still. I wanted to call them “The Pirates of Comedy”, and I know they could develop a rabid following all over.

Don’s website is http://www.donreese.com and his DVD “It Came From Iowa” is a must have. He’s like the typical bad guy pro wrestler – scary in the ring, but a teddy bear in real life. Dwight and Don are both sweethearts, as is Dan Still. Put them on a comedy stage, and it’s a different story.

Dan’s website is http://www.danstill.com, and his CD is called “Anger Therapy”. All three of those guys get their ya-yas out on stage, and then off stage they’re mild mannered and sweet. I would LOVE to be their manager and build their brand, but who has time? I’ve got my own problems.

Of course there’s my friend “The Enviromedian” James Wesley Jackson. I’m still trying to get his new DVD noticed, and you can find him at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com. He’s someone else I think deserves to get some time in the sun. James has paid his dues, and deserves a payday.

Then there’s my good friend Jimmy McHugh and his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” concept. He is another guy who deserves a break. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. I can think of a lot more, but for now I’ll leave it at this. Please seek out and support these people. They’re ALL tremendous!

Dwight York - his book 'The Vile File' is laugh out loud funny!

Dwight York – his book ‘The Vile File’ is laugh out loud funny!

Don Reese - "It Came From Iowa" is a must own DVD.

Don Reese – “It Came From Iowa” is a must own DVD.

Dan Still looks like 'The Undertaker' - or is it the other way around? www.danstill.com.

Dan Still looks like ‘The Undertaker’ – or is it the other way around? http://www.danstill.com.

What's an Enviromedian? Find out at www.jameswesleyjackson.com

What’s an Enviromedian? Find out at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com

Jimmy McHugh - head Chicago Comedy All Star. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Jimmy McHugh – head Chicago Comedy All Star. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

The Peak Of Ripeness

June 22, 2013

Friday June 21st, 2013 – Niles, IL

   It’s the first day of summer, and once again I find another year slipping away. After today days start to get shorter again, so this is it – the prime day of the year. I’m not booked tonight, and I’m not thrilled about it in the least. I want to be out working as much as I can, and that’s every week.

   Nothing else makes me even close to happy. I’ve resigned myself to the icy fact that I’m never going to have that solid family relationship I have always wanted, but if I can’t have that the only other thing I’d ever want is a chance to be on stage entertaining people who are there to see me.

   I’ve been chasing that tricky rabbit longer than I think I should have, and I don’t feel any closer now than when I started. I have come untold light years as a performer, but nobody knows who I am so what good is it? I know I can go on stage and light up a room, but nobody powerful cares.

   Rodney Dangerfield had a great joke that said he quit show business and when he quit – he was the only one who KNEW he quit. That’s funny to anyone who isn’t living it. I feel like I’m there now myself, and I’m not laughing. I’m not even smiling. I’m panicking, and that’s never good.

   There are too many choices to make, and I have no idea which ones are correct. I’ve made a lot of stupid ones through the years, but even so I still paid my dues and developed my natural talent to the point it’s ripe and ready to pick. I’m at my peak just like today is the peak of the summer.

    I don’t want to waste any more time, as that peak ripeness won’t last forever. It will eventually get soft and rot, and the last thing I want is to be a rotten piece of fruit that fell off the tree. I have come way too far for that, so I decided to do something about it. I am not satisfied with this fate.

   In a perfect world, I’d be working six to seven nights a week in nice venues for audiences filled with my fans. I’d super serve those people, and give them my very best each night. I’d sign every autograph and pose for every picture after the show, and live the rest of my days brightening the days of as many others as humanly possible. I’ve got the ability, now I just need the opportunity.

   How the hell is that going to happen? I wish I knew. I read an interview with Lewis Black and he said he had resigned himself to the fact he’d never make it – and then he made it. I’m right at that point myself, and I don’t like it one bit. There’s no guarantee I’ll hit anything, and that rots.

   I can rattle off a dozen names of absolutely fantastic standup comedians that the public has no idea whatsoever who any of them are. Look these people up in no particular order and tell me if you don’t think they’re hilarious. I know they are, because they’ve paid their dues just like me.

   Here’s a list off the top of my head: Tim Cavanagh, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern, Dwight York, Don Reese, Jim McHugh, James Wesley Jackson, Beth Donahue, John McClellan, Danny Storts, Ross Bennett, Keith Stubbs, Todd Johnson, Auggie Smith, Bill Gorgo, Rick D’Elia, Wally Wang and now I’m going to get in trouble because I’ll leave someone out unintentionally. Suffice to say not everyone makes it.

   I’ve said it before, and I wish it weren’t true – talent does NOT assure anyone of career success in the entertainment business. In sports it may be different, but this isn’t sports. This is a business based on subjective opinions of many that have never once attempted to do themselves what they are allegedly experts at choosing. This has always been frightening and extremely disturbing, but I don’t see it ending any time soon. There are hoops that are to be jumped through, like it or not.

   I don’t like it and never have, but if I intend to change my current status I need to suck it up for at least a little while and get back out there. There are so many places other than comedy clubs to approach, and that’s where it gets tricky. Where do I go and who do I talk to? I haven’t been able to figure it out until now, so what leads me to believe I’ll do it now? I can’t, so I need some help.

   I had lunch with Marc Schultz today, and in his world he’s in a similar situation. Marc books a variety of entertainment acts and has for years. He inherited an agency from his father, and even though he’s not a comedy booker per se I have gotten a decent amount of work over the years.

   Marc and I are friends, and there aren’t many bookers I’d call a friend first. I genuinely like the guy, and even if he never booked me again I’d still hang out with him. That’s all fine, but we put our heads together today to see what we could come up with. His business isn’t what it was, but what business these days is? We can both use a little freshening up, so we came up with a plan.

   Most of Marc’s clients are corporate types. Most of them would never hire a standup comic but he’s going to approach the ones that might. He’s always been good about trying to include me on any sampler videos he sends, and I totally appreciate it. But I can do the job, and he realizes that.

   We also agreed that Marc is going to go after club work that I haven’t gone after, for a fee. I’m delighted to pay anybody to get me work I don’t have, so this is a no brainer. If he can land some decent work, I’m all over it. I don’t want to work the toilet circuit anymore, so these will be good clubs that will pay decent money. He’s not familiar with the club market, but he’s willing to try.

   This is not a long term fix, but in the short run it could be great for both of us. I won’t be stuck doing what I’ve never liked, and it’s always good to have a third party selling me rather than me stumbling and stammering and asking for work like a vagrant asks for change. I’ve never liked it.

   Steady work is what’s it’s about in any facet of show business. Period. I’d rather work steadily and make livable wage than be a big star one minute and a has been bum the next. I’m all about a steady career with regular income. I’ve come close many times, but I’ve never been able to make it last. There’s always been a radio job to come along and shake things up in a destructive way.

   I’m not foreseeing any radio in my immediate future. That ship has sailed – or sunk. What I am going to do is cross every T and dot every I and go after all the quality standup comedy work I’m able to get. It could be comedy clubs, cruise ships, colleges or corporate. I can handle just about anything at this point, but what I can’t handle is not working at all. That’s totally unacceptable.

   I look at comics from my generation of performers like Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan, and I want to be doing what they’re doing. How did they get it? I don’t know. I’m sure it was a lot of things. Talent is a part, but so is persistence, connections, luck and who knows what else? It’s complex.

   If I don’t get myself in front of someone, I’ll never have any chance to do anything. That’s not what I want to have as my final legacy, so at least Marc is going to be out there trying to mention my name to people who can book me in decent venues. Why haven’t we done this before now?

   Neither one of us has an answer. Marc was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. Now we’ve both run out of ‘things’, and this is a logical fit – at least for now. I’m going to dive into booking myself in as many quality places as I can. No more toilets. If I succeed, my life will change soon. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s just that where I’m doing it hasn’t gotten me seen.

Crazy Heart Hits Home

March 11, 2010

Tuesday March 9th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I needed to escape today so I went to see the movie ‘Crazy Heart’. I hadn’t seen a movie in a long time and that’s one I’ve been hearing about since my friend Darryl Rhoades told me he was filming it over a year ago. Darryl is out of Atlanta and we’ve been friends for a lot of years. He started out as a musician and morphed into comedy and he’s a super guy.

Darryl had a non speaking role as a drummer in one of the bands and he had quite a nice chunk of screen time. Nobody else would probably notice, but he’s my friend and told me he was in it so I picked him out right away. It was fun to see him but the movie was pretty dark as a whole and a few times it really made me flinch. Show business can be a downer.

Jeff Bridges’ character plays an aging country singer who still has to piece together life on the road long after his prime. He’s a fabulous actor and really made it convincing. I see why he won the Oscar, but it sure was dark and gloomy. It reminded me in many ways of ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke, and worse yet – quite a few comedians that I know.

The entertainment business is very cold and only a selected few ever really hit it big and make it last for a lifetime. Public tastes are fickle, unsophisticated and usually shallow for the most part, so often times people with true talent and vision have to struggle to survive while the lesser talents with the superficial looks or business savvy take all the attention.

This happens in every field in life from music to acting to wrestling to sports to comedy too. The dream window is only open for so long, then it’s a matter of survival. The exit of entertainers usually isn’t pretty, and both The Wrestler and Crazy Heart drove that home.

As good of a movie as it was, it kind of depressed me a little. Even though it had a kind of happy ending, it was still a little shallow for me. The guy didn’t get the girl, the young pretty boy punk got all the glory, and all he got in the end was to continue making a living doing what he always did. I guess that’s not bad, but it seemed like he still got screwed.

The inner fear all of us have as entertainers is that will be us someday. Soon. The guy in the movie was supposed to be 57 years old. I’ll be 47 on Saturday, and I could relate to all the business situations he was facing. I’ve worked for slimy agents too and in some of the same towns in the movie. Clovis, NM? Grand Junction, CO? Been there. Once is plenty.

I talked to my friend Dwight York today also. He’s a wonderful guy and one of the best comedians I’ve ever worked with, but he can’t seem to catch a break either. His act is one of the darkest, most twisted I think I’ve ever seen and that’s a sincere compliment. He’s a master joke writer in my opinion, and I can’t believe he’s not an international superstar.

But he’s not. Not even close. He’s slugging it out like me, trying to pay his rent. Dwight and I can relate on a lot of levels, but neither one of us give up. Life is what it is, and I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I needed a break today, but I wish I wouldn’t have chosen to see ‘Crazy Heart’. I needed something a little more upbeat to help me forget my pain.