Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Brill’

Luck And Timing

March 7, 2013

Monday March 4th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   The pendulum of fate swung in my direction today, and I received the last minute call to host a showcase at Zanies in Chicago for The Great American Comedy Festival. That’s an annual event held in Johnny Carson’s home town of Norfolk, NE at where else – The Johnny Carson Theatre.

I’m always grateful whenever Zanies calls, and I happen to be on their list of go to people in an emergency. I’ve been able to help them out time and time again over years, and they’ve done the same for me. There’s really no reason for it other than that’s the way it worked out. I was lucky.

I’m by far not the only comedian in Chicago who could do a competent job, but I have been on Zanies radar for years. I’ve learned that that’s how a lot of show business works. There are a few cherry positions available, and those who have them rarely give them up. It’s a numbers game.

The main reason I moved out of Milwaukee in the ‘80s was that I was never on that go to list at the clubs there. Everyone wanted to work at the Comedy Café at that time, but I was never on the ‘A’ list there at any time no matter how hard I tried even though I had as much ability as anyone.

Raw talent and ability are NOT the be all and end all in the entertainment business. It’s nice to have it, but it’s not the main requirement. I know a lot of people with a lot of talent who struggle to stay booked, while others who are ‘funny enough’ but know how to play the game get ahead.

It’s a giant puzzle for everyone, and we all need to find where we’re a fit. Sometimes that’s an unbelievably frustrating process, while other times it just falls into place. I happened to fall into a situation with Zanies that has been a fit for years. I do have ability but so do a lot of other people. Trying to figure out reasons why certain people get chosen and others don’t is a waste of energy.

It was a lot of fun to host the show tonight, and I tried as I always do to get the audience into it and let them know important their participation would be. I made sure the energy was focused on the stage whenever I brought up another act, and I made sure every act got a proper introduction.

The talent booker of the Great American Comedy Festival is Eddie Brill – formerly the booker of comedians on Late Night with David Letterman. Eddie is a total sweetheart, and couldn’t be a more friendly and supportive guy. I’ve come to really like that guy, and so does everybody else.

It’s always good to cross paths with Eddie personally, but professionally it doesn’t hurt to have a chance to be seen one more time. I’ve auditioned for him in the past, but I’ve never nailed a set like I know I can and have done thousands of times in clubs when he wasn’t around. That’s often how it works unfortunately, but Eddie gets that. He’s a comic himself and has been in that place.

There was a lot of talent on the showcase tonight, and there could have been a solid case made for just about all of them to be included in the festival. But Eddie has been seeing acts from coast to coast and there are precious few spots available. That’s how it is, and just because someone is not chosen doesn’t mean that person is without talent. Luck and timing are also main ingredients.

Fundraiser Focus

October 3, 2012

Tuesday October 2nd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   My main project for the next two weeks is going to be attending to the details pertaining to the comedy benefit fundraiser show for Officer Josh Albert at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on October 17th. The lineup of comedians is set, but that was the least of my concerns. There’s a lot more to do, and seeing how I’ve managed to lose money on most benefits I’ve ever done I’m a bit wary.

First and foremost, I need to get the media behind it to get the word out. There was significant media coverage when the accident first occurred, and hopefully this can help put as happy of an ending to it as possible. Obviously it would be best if it never happened, but that’s not how it is.

I’ve received several responses from various media outlets in Milwaukee, and I’m encouraged. I don’t care who gets interviewed, I just want word to get out the event is taking place at all. My cousin Katie will be able to tell the story far better than me because she was there, and hopefully that puts butts in seats to show support. The comedians and I will handle everything from there.

But beyond that, I’m hoping to do even more good if I can. I’m attempting to reach as many of my comedian friends who have CDs or DVDs or books and have them donate two copies of each – one for Officer Albert to listen to while he’s recovering and another to be used for an auction.

I know Officer Albert isn’t the only person recovering from horrific injuries, and I wish I could find a way to spread some comedy around to them. I thought of this last year when I was dealing with my own medical issues, and the idea still appeals to me. But first things first, I’ll make sure this event comes off successfully before worrying about saving the world. I can’t do everything.

So far, we’re looking good. My friend Drew Olson from 540 ESPN Milwaukee agreed to host the evening. He is very well liked in town, and hopefully those in the media that may not be my biggest fans will help support the cause despite my involvement. I don’t want personal politics.

My other focus is rounding up items for a silent auction. What will sell, I have no idea. I have had several donations already though, and I’m thrilled beyond words. My comedy writer friend Bill Mihalic put a word out to Jay Leno, and Jay’s assistant said a signed picture is on the way.

I asked Eddie Brill the best way to get a David Letterman signed picture, and I have no doubt if it’s at all possible Eddie will help make it happen. If not, I’m sure he will have some suggestions as to what else I can do or who else I can approach. I do have an extensive list of quality people.

Another friend Steve Olsher really came through with an amazing combination package of self help materials including a videotaped seminar weekend I was a part of this past summer and two of his bestselling books. The retail value of the package is $593.79, and I’m grateful to accept it.

Pat McCurdy’s manager Brian Murphy will donate some of Pat’s merchandise, and he’s one of my all time faves. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt wrote a book that I really love about the ’82 Brewers and is donating a signed copy. This is a start, but there’s more to do.

The Letterman Dream

September 10, 2012

Sunday September 9th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’ve been keeping up with my exercising of late, and even though it’s a significant commitment of time and effort I feel it’s a worthwhile investment. I feel great, and there’s no reason to slow it down any time soon. I’m already behind on everything, but at least I’m alive to try and catch up.

Stopping exercise is not smart, but I’ve been known to do dumb things before. For now, I’m in a healthy groove and I intend to keep it up indefinitely. One of the many benefits I receive is I’m sleeping soundly after exercise and I wake up feeling very refreshed. I’ve not had sleep problems before, but I really notice a difference now. I nod right out, and I have vividly realistic dreams.

I don’t know why that is, but I’m sure there’s a reason. All I know is, in the last year I’ve really been able to remember my dreams in detail – even after I wake up. We’ve had dream interpreters on The Mothership Connection radio show on AM 1050 WLIP, and they all say to keep track of them all. I don’t know if I want to go that far, but last night I had one that really stuck with me.

I dreamed I had an audition in front of David Letterman’s production staff, and out of a line of others they chose me. They loved my set, and then they brought in Dave himself to meet me and watch my set. He loved it, and asked me to be on the show next week. I said no, and he laughed.

Then the staff all came back into the room and welcomed me aboard. I woke up soon after that and it was one of those super vivid dreams that seemed 100% real in every way. It really felt like it was happening, and I was taken aback to wake up actually. I felt right at home in that scenario.

Does it have any meaning? Who knows? Is it a premonition? Perhaps. Is it a sign that the onset of dementia is at hand? That could be it too. Either way, it sure felt real. I was right there talking to David Letterman like we were peers, and I felt totally at home doing it. I knew I could nail it.

Maybe I’m not aiming high enough in life or there’s something else that’s off, but ability to do the job is not my problem. I’m not bragging, but if any of the late night talk shows wanted me to be on – even on extremely short notice – I could do it. I could do it TONIGHT, and I’d love to.

My appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was perceived to be a hit by those who saw it, but I know I’ll do a lot better on my next appearance of note. That was a big learning experience, and I made some dumb mistakes I surely won’t repeat. I would love another chance.

Maybe I had this dream because I hung out with Eddie Brill last week. He used to book comics for the show, and I’ve auditioned for him a few times but have yet to show him my best. He told me I’d probably not be right for the show, but he didn’t do it in a mean way. And from what he’d seen me do, I totally don’t blame him. But I’m way better than that, and I know I would kick ass.

If nothing else, it was a great motivator to get back out there and get in the game. Whether I’m ever on Letterman isn’t the issue. I’d love to be, but it’s a giant numbers game. There is some TV show somewhere that would be a good fit. It was fun to dream about, but now it’s time to DO it.

Circle Of Friends

September 8, 2012

Thursday September 6th, 2012 – Rockford, IL/Oak Park, IL/St. Charles, IL

   All kinds of surprises today but each one was wonderfully pleasant. First, I got the call to fill in on the morning show on WNTA in Rockford, IL. Jim Stone often calls on short notice, but that’s not a problem. I always try to do it if I can, as it both helps Jim and gives me on air practice time.

It’s kind of like the bat signal. I never know when I’ll get the call, but when it comes I’m ready to drop what I’m doing and show up at a moment’s notice. Hopefully it builds good karma in the long run, and it really is worthwhile as far as building talk host chops. I am steadily improving.

Today was a perfect example. I was on from 6-10am and I didn’t have a guest in the 6 o’clock hour on purpose. One, I wouldn’t call my friends on short notice to be on that early, and two – it forced me to learn the craft of filling the time by myself. With commercials and news, the hours consist of four segments of about 9 minutes each. That’s a lot of time to babble alone in a room.

The first time I did it, I was really intimidated. I didn’t expect to be by myself, as I’ve become used to being the smart ass sidekick that reacts to everything. Being the source is not the same at all, and I had to make a big adjustment the first time I did it. Now, it’s no sweat. I can handle it.

I made it through that first hour with no problems at all, and even had stuff left over I could’ve talked about if I needed to. It may not have been riveting radio, but it wasn’t some halfwit off the street embarrassing himself and the radio station either. There has been significant improvement.

In the 7 o’clock hour I had Jeff Schneider on as my telephone sidekick. We’re used to riffing at length from doing ‘The Unshow’ podcasts, and he really is an interesting guy with a much better grasp of current events than I have. I’m pretty out there with the stuff I like, but he’s into subject matter more palatable to the public. Talking about George Clinton and Uranus wouldn’t be a fit.

I also had comedian Tim Walkoe on to talk about the Democratic National Convention. Tim is very passionate to say the least, and really knows his stuff politically and can voice his viewpoint in an entertaining way. It fit perfectly with what should have been on the radio on a day like this.

Dale Irvin came on the next hour, and he’s great too. Dale is a ‘professional summarizer’ and is in the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. He’s always entertaining on the air and did it on short notice which I totally appreciate. Dale is an amazing marketer too. He’s got books and a free weekly humor video service called ‘The Friday Funnies’.  Find Dale at www.daleirvin.com.

After the radio show I received a call from Jim McHugh. Jim and I have been on WNTA many times together as a team, but the budget only allows for one these days and splitting the pay isn’t good for anyone. It’s not that much to begin with, but I don’t do it strictly for the cash. I enjoy it.

I haven’t seen Jim in a while, and we hung out at his house for a couple of hours to catch up on a lot of things. Jim is trying to promote comedy show fundraiser events with a group he’s calling ‘The Chicago Comedy All Stars’, and I totally think there’s a market for what he’s trying to do.

The website is www.chicagocomedyallstars.com and is done by Mark Huelskamp who is doing my King of Uranus website. Jim has been really great in pushing me to get the site up, but trying to make time for everything just isn’t easy. I’ve dropped the ball, but only because I’ve had to do what I can to just stay afloat. There’s no excuse for either of us, and we know it. We need action.

It was good to hang out and talk about both of these projects. I’m helping him with what he is doing and he’s helping me. Together, we’re both struggling to survive but at least we’ve got each other’s back. Jim has two kids in college, so his problems are different than mine but both have a need to make a living and that was our focus. It was a productive session but we also had a blast.

After that it was on to Oak Park, IL to visit Cara Carriveau, my former co-worker at The Loop. Cara did the midday shift when I was on the morning show, and we got along very well. ALL of us did, and that’s why it’s so frustrating we’re still not there. What an outstanding staff that was assembled by Greg Solk including Cara, Seaver, Byrd, Mark Zander and Jimmy Novack. Wow.

All of those people were easy to get along with and very good on the air as well. I loved being a part of that team, and most of us still stay in touch at least once in a while. I hadn’t seen Cara in way too long, and she invited me over for dinner with her and her kids who I also enjoy seeing.

Cara is a total pro, and I can learn from how thorough she is. She’s been doing a podcast a long time before it was cool, and I was her first guest. She interviews rock stars mainly, but she asked if I wouldn’t mind being her first interview to work the bugs out and of course I had to say yes.

It’s called ‘Cara’s Basement’, and it really is recorded in her basement in a studio she had built. She said the interview we did still gets hits, and that along with all the others can be heard at her website www.carasbasement.com. She does a fantastic job with it, and has had some big names.

I can learn from Cara’s way of handling her business. She’s extremely sharp, and really keeps her focus not only on her career but on her family too. Being a single mom is brutal enough, but add working in major market radio to that and it’s about as rough as rough gets. But she nails it.

Cara does the midday shift at 101.9 WTMX ‘The Mix’ in Chicago and does it extremely well. I always thought she sounded great at The Loop, and still does on The Mix. She’s major market all the way, and one of my very favorite people. This was a day I got to spend hanging with the best.

My final stop was Zanies in St. Charles at the Pheasant Run Resort. I don’t know why I had an urge to go there, but that little voice inside told me to go and am I glad I did. I didn’t have a clue who was there this week, but to my pleasant surprise it was Eddie Brill. Eddie was the booker of the David Letterman show for years, and still is the regular audience warm up act. What a peach.

Eddie is just a flat out nice man. He knows what it’s like to be a comedian, and is very kind to everyone who wants to be on the Letterman show – who is everyone on Earth. Rick Gieser is the P.R. person for Zanies and he was there too, and we ended up hanging out for an hour afterward exchanging stories and talking sports. I wish every day was like this. I have some super friends.

Great American Comedy Festival

February 25, 2010

Wednesday February 24th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago held an audition showcase tonight for The Great American Comedy Festival and I was fortunate enough to be included. It’s a comedy competition held each summer in Johnny Carson’s home town in Nebraska and has been going for a few years.

The website is http://www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com and the talent lineup is booked by Eddie Brill, talent coordinator for The David Letterman Show. I’ve showcased for him a couple of times before, but I’ll be damned if I can ever have a killer set in front of him.

Tonight was no exception. Everything went wrong leading up to the show, as it snowed all afternoon and made driving a nightmare. I live exactly 50.4 miles from Zanies and it’s never easy even when weather is good. There’s always traffic somewhere and it’s hard to judge exactly how long it will take on any given day. I left at 5:15 for an 8pm call time.

The snow got thicker both in the air and on the roads, and cars were spinning out and in ditches all over the place. I’m extra gun shy after my own recent car wreck in bad weather so my bung hole was clenched from start to finish. This was a high stress unpleasant ride.

I called Zanies to let the box office person know I was going to be late, but he never got around to telling anyone else. I got a frantic call from Bert Haas at 8:15 asking where the hell I was, but by that time I was already on North Avenue and headed toward the club.

They’d drawn numbers to determine the order, and of course I was first. It’s absolutely uncanny how many times that’s happened, and I’ve almost come to expect it. Number one is usually a good thing to be, except when it comes to a comedy showcase audition show. The crowd is usually tight and there are only six minutes to lay out whatever you’ve got.

This is a part of the business I’ve never been good at, even though I’ve improved a little only because I’ve done it quite a few times. The energy of a six minute set is the opposite of a forty-five minute headliner set, which I’ve been doing for years now. It‘s very tricky.

The audience tonight had no idea what they were seeing. They were just there to see the show, and didn’t realize how potentially important it was. They weren’t bad people at all, but they weren’t good laughers either. Then, the host Vince Maranto did a bit bashing the hell out of Wisconsin right before me. I like Vince, but he didn’t help me by doing that.

Normally I wouldn’t mind at all, and I’ve worked with Vince for years and years, but he gave my intro as being from Wisconsin so I felt I had to defend myself. The crowd wasn’t very hot and it took me out of my game from the first few seconds. I hadn’t planned to do that, and I was off schedule as to what I’d planned to do. The decisions are split second.

I’ve been in front of Eddie Brill before and he’s a great guy. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him, and it also makes it a lot easier because he’s a comic himself. He knows everything that can go wrong and he’s experienced it himself. Still, nothing is an excuse.

If I’m in front of a talent booker for whatever reason, it’s my responsibility to show my best no matter what the circumstances. Nobody cares it was snowing to beat the band, or that I’d just driven almost three hours in highly stressful conditions. That doesn’t matter.

It also doesn’t matter what order number position I draw out of a hat. Actually, this was drawn for me. All I have to do is go up and showcase my best six minutes no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s all I can do. Eddie doesn’t see the times I go up and kick major ass for a solid forty-five minutes and have people tell me they can’t laugh harder.

His job is to find comics that he thinks David Letterman will like, and for this particular showcase he was looking for people who will play well in Norfolk, NE. The audience had no clue so the hard choice is whether to try and please them or try and grab Eddie’s ear.

That can be a maddening decision, and unless there’s total commitment it can lead to an absolutely horrendous result. I don’t think I was horrendous, but I sure didn’t nail this one like I’ve been doing in my headline sets recently. I felt like I didn’t get my best response.

I did get a chance to showcase at least a little of what I wanted to show though. I have a closing bit which is a rant about how idiots shouldn’t breed and it’s become a dependable climax over the years. I lead up to it for forty minutes, and then unleash a five minute big bang that usually destroys most of the people in the room. It kills, and I’m known for it.

It’s difficult to showcase that particular bit, as it usually takes a while to lead up to how I deliver it. It’s angst filled and animated and the verbal equivalent of the 1812 Overture. I tend to speak quickly anyway, and this is a great example of it. When it works, it KILLS.

My challenge is to find a way to audition with it so the Eddie Brills of the world can get to see it, but also get where I’m coming from with it. Just going up there as a white guy in a sport coat yelling isn’t going to do me any good. I know that bit works, but I don’t know how I’m going to do it in such a short time and have the audience get it. I gave it my best.

The audience laughed a few times during my six minutes, but not nearly as much as I’m used to. I worked a little more ‘clubby’ than a squeaky clean set for TV, only because I’ve met Eddie before and know he’s competent and can tell the difference. This wasn’t my set for Letterman, this was a set that would work in Nebraska, and it would. I’ve been there.

I’d LOVE to get a chance to go to the festival this year. I’d kick ass, because I’m able to adjust to each audience individually, and Midwest people usually love what I do. If Eddie calls me, I’ll be thrilled and say yes. If not, I know it’s nothing personal and all he’s trying to do is book the best festival he can. He cares about it and I would too. We love comedy.

I may or may not ever get on the David Letterman Show, and that’s just how it is. Eddie Brill or anyone else isn’t ‘out to get me’ or so many other things comedians think. It’s not easy to audition, and I thought it was so-so at best, but at least I got to show a part of a bit that destroys in a club setting. If Eddie likes it, I’ll get in. If not, ok. I know it still kills.