Posts Tagged ‘Funny Bone’

The Password Is “KINDNESS”

June 15, 2014

Saturday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Of all the posts I have ever made and all the writing I have ever done, I’d have to pick this one installment as my definitive work. It sums up who I am and what makes me tick, and when I put it up on Facebook I got unbelievably sincere responses – many from people I hadn’t heard from in years. This is what clicked with me that I am indeed a writer and not some typing schmuck.

It really took the pressure off as well with having to please anyone else with what I’m doing as a comedian. From now on I am calling the shots, and wherever it leads me will be where I go.

– – –

As I get older, I realize that the only thing that really matters in this life is kindness. That’s it. Everything else is pure and utter useless bullshit. We all have hopes and dreams and that’s great, but in the end it’s only what we do for others that really passes the test of time.

I used to think I wanted fame and fortune and all the dreams comedians have when they start out. As time slides away I can clearly see what a waste it is to focus on only that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting – or getting – it, but even if one does it’s no guarantee of happiness or lasting impact.

All too often little gestures or moments are what make the biggest difference, both good and bad. I know the bad side all too well, and there are a few people I have pissed off so badly they want nothing to do with me ever again.

Unfortunately those people are considered big in the comedy world, and it has cost me a lot of work that I could really use right about now. I still don’t know what I did to piss them off that badly, and it was completely unintentional. I said I was sorry, but they wouldn’t hear of it.

I don’t claim now or ever did to be perfect or without fault. My screw ups in life have been many and often. BUT – I like to think there is a heart in there somewhere, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life strengthening that muscle. I don’t know how or what I can do to make people’s lives better, but as long as I’m drawing breath that is going to be my razor sharp focus.

I may not ever get rich, famous or even beloved – but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the giving. My heart is still aching to the core about the passing of Dan Ronan. That kid touched a lot of people in exactly the way I am talking about. He was far from perfect either, but his core was pure.

I have a lot of contacts, and it’s virtually impossible to keep track of everyone. Facebook makes it a little easier, but there are many more that aren’t even on it. And I’m talking about one on one contact – even if it’s just for a minute or two. Planting those positive seeds every day are what life is all about.

When I told Dan’s parents about our road trip, his mother’s eyes lit up and for just a split second Dan was alive again. She smiled broadly as she told of how much that trip meant to him. Well, it must have meant at least a little because he ended up telling her about it.

Quite honestly it was no big deal to me at the time. Road trips are old to me to the point of being an unwelcome grind, but I knew Dan could handle it and he was thrilled to be asked. I remember fondly and vividly how much I was thrilled for my first road work, so I was passing it forward. That’s the kindness I’m talking about. It was little to nothing at the time I did it, and I forgot about it.

But when it came back from her memory at such a horrific time it was healing and cathartic for us both. Little moments like that are what I want to create more of with as many people as humanly possible until the day when I am in a coffin of my own. That could come at any time, and yesterday drove that point home deeply right through my already downtrodden heart.

If I have pissed you off even a little in our dealings – please accept my deepest and heartfelt apology. I was wrong, and I am very sorry. Dave Stroupe, Colleen Quinn and Al Canal from the Funny Bone chain and Bob and Tom think I’m the devil, and try as I might I can’t change it.

I said I was sorry, and I truly am. Nobody can make anyone accept an apology, but even they can’t change what’s in a person’s heart. I know I have one, and all I can do is move on and do the best I can. I’m sorry they’re so angry, but that’s on them. I’m not the dastardly scum bucket they seem to think I am.

My comedy career is going nowhere, and unfortunately that’s true for a lot of people – many with considerable talent. Talent is never the determining factor. It’s nice if one has it, but not the top requirement. Getting to the top echelon of show business is extremely rare for anybody. Hard work and luck are huge ingredients, and talent and timing are in the mix as well.

I’m really sorry to make this long rambling post, but I have so many raw emotions charging through my veins right now I can’t help it. I am still at the house of my friend Sheri who had a stroke before she was 50. She is alive, but every day is a struggle just to get out of bed and get dressed.

Perspective is everything, and I’m finally gaining some in life. The comedy game is brutal, and I fought through it for thirty years only to learn what’s really important – kindness. I hope I can make the most of whatever time I have left, and that time will be spent following my heart rather than trying to please some idiot in Hollywood I don’t respect. I’m playing a much more satisfying game now, and it’s one that everybody can win.

I’m sorry it took the death of such a vibrant soul to hit me this hard, but I don’t intend to make it in vein. Dan’s life has breathed new inspiration into my own, and has given me a razor sharp purpose I only partially felt before. I don’t intend to make long posts like this often, but I felt I needed to do this one and get it ‘out there’. My mistakes sure are, and those that hate me like to tell it to anyone who will listen. I can’t change that, but I can change my inner source of power, and I am doing that now. It’s all about the kindness. Period.

– – –

It may have taken years for me to find my voice, but after this particular post I think I finally have. It flowed out of me when I wrote it, and it got touched people’s hearts. That’s the goal.

Amen!

Amen!

Preach it, Aesop!

Preach it, Aesop!

I Miss Uranus

February 25, 2014

Sunday February 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve really been enjoying life these last couple of months, and much of the reason for that I still have to attribute to the positive energy flow that was started by reconnecting with my siblings. It has improved my life to the core, and everything just feels better because of it. It gives me hope.

We have our meeting set up for March 8th, but don’t have a place just yet. I’ll let them choose, as it really doesn’t matter in the least from my end. I’d be ok with a can of sardines and a glass of water. It’s not about where we meet or what we eat, it’s about having closure. That’s what I have wanted as long as I can remember, and even getting together one time will do that. It’s all I need.

I had one of my super vivid dreams a few nights ago. I have those from time to time, and when I do they’re unbelievably life like. I have had them about being on stage or TV or even playing in the NFL or NBA. When I’m having one, it’s like I am in a completely different world. And I am.

I can’t explain how they differ from regular dreams, but they absolutely do. In this most recent one, I was at the restaurant where we were supposed to meet up, and I sat at the table the hostess told me to go to. The place was crowded, but I could feel eyes on me from all across the room.

The longer I sat, the more uncomfortable I became. I finally left thinking they weren’t coming, and then I got to the parking lot and they were all driving up in one car. I was overwhelmed with emotions, and I started to weep openly. They all did too, and we tried to go back inside but it was closed. I felt pure exhilaration to see them, and the dream was so intense it felt frighteningly real.

When I woke up, it was all I could think about. I know there are a lot of built up emotions from my childhood, but I didn’t think it would affect me as deeply as it has. This is exactly what I feel I’ve needed forever, and I don’t know how I know it but I know everything else is just a bonus.

I am fully prepared in my mind should things go south. I don’t think they will, mainly because all of us have volunteered to be there. Nobody is coming kicking and screaming, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t change their mind before that day. I won’t, but I can’t speak for the rest of them. I know I’m going in with the right mindset, and no matter how it plays out I’ll deal with it.

There’s no denying there was a lot of damage done to all of us. Childhood was an ugly blur of dysfunction, and it will be painful to go back into that mess. We’re not going in there to troll up that old sludge, but I don’t see how at least a little can’t splatter on us during our time together.

We’ve all got raw nerves exposed, and chances of someone hitting one are unfortunately really good. I’m not going to lash out at anyone, and should it get out of hand I’ll politely leave and not initiate any combat. I believe in my heart none of us want that, but if it happens I’ll remain calm.

Even then, I won’t carry any grudges or wish them anything other than peace. That’s what I’ve wanted, and we’re almost there. I have no idea if we’ll stay in contact after that night, and though I’d really like that we’ve all built lives for ourselves and nothing would change much for any of us. We’ve already learned to live without each other, so anything more than that will be an added treat. I’m looking very forward to March 8th, and no matter what happens I’m already a winner.

The change that has come over me is dramatic, and I’ve never felt better. It’s pretty late in life to be starting over, but that’s how I feel. No matter what happens on March 8th, I will hopefully wake up on March 9th with something to aspire to. Without hopes and dreams, life is worthless.

I’d still love to find a good woman and experience what a healthy love relationship is. That’s a goal I’d like far more than comedy. I have been striking out left and right lately, even though I’m trying my best to put myself in a position to make myself available to someone special. It’s been a total blow to my already shaky self esteem, but if I don’t try I’ll never get my chance. It’s hard.

But like with my siblings, I know what it’s like to be alone and not much will change if I don’t hook up with Miss Dreamy Pants. I know several women I’d love to hook up with, but for some reason it’s just not clicking at the moment. Maybe I’m changing too much and too fast for them.

All I can do is be myself, and that’s one thing that I know is absolutely improving by amazing leaps and bounds. My whole inner psyche feels better than I ever remember, and I have to think it will catch up in the rest of my life. Maybe the women I like now aren’t the right ones for me.

I’ll let that happen as it will, or maybe it won’t. If I have to die alone, I’ve always been able to deal with that. I’ve been alone my whole life, so it’s not a big deal. I know I have trust issues, but a big part of getting over that will be this meeting. I feel great about it and am ready for anything.

What I’m not feeling great about is my career – or lack thereof. I am having without a doubt by far my best shows ever, but I’m not making much of a dent anywhere. I can’t seem to crack all of the big comedy club chains like the Improvs or the Funny Bones, and that’s only because of a jag against me by a few people in charge. It has nothing to do with my ability, but that’s how it goes.

Could all that turn around in a second? Absolutely! ONE big break will turn it around, and I’ve always known that. What I don’t know is if I feel like hanging in there much longer and sucking raw sewage fumes. It’s just not thrilling me, and I need a place where I can channel my passion.

In all honesty, what I want more than anything else is to develop the King of Uranus and make it a viable entity rather than a half baked whim I have kicked around with no set direction. There is a goldmine in Uranus, and I feel it with all my heart. It excites me to an inner boil, and it feels like my inner mission despite the fact people have told me I’m nuts. A lot more have laughed.

That’s the whole idea. I live to make people laugh, and it doesn’t have to be just doing standup comedy. I love doing it, but not with the life toll it takes. The King of Uranus is a goofy gimmick by itself, but the creative genius will come from the marketing aspect of how it all gets executed.

I want to be the head of a successful company that sells funny. That could be clothing, trinkets, novelties, live shows – it doesn’t matter. I want to create a brand, and be the personification of it. Much like Vince McMahon personifies the WWE, I want to be associated with Uranus. No joke.

Crazy? Without a doubt. Stupid? That’s debateable. I feel this so strongly I can’t keep it in, and it’s all that trips my trigger right now. Sink or swim, this is where my passion lies. I can see it all as vividly and realistic as one of my intense dreams. This idea has rotted too long. I miss Uranus!

Did you know that this is the official international symbol for Uranus? You do now.

Did you know that this is the official symbol for Uranus? You do now.

Here's my logo. Remember - it's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

Remember – it’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

See what I mean? Who doesn't think this is funny? I don't want them around me.

See what I mean? Who doesn’t think this is funny? If you don’t, stay away from me please.

She might think it's funny.  Maybe she'd like a date with royalty!

She might think it’s funny. Better yet, maybe she’d like a date with royalty! Uranus is for lovers.

Who doesn't? It's the butt of every nine year old's jokes. Pun intended. This is the level of the public's sense of humor, and I'm going to get a few bucks from each of them. Thumbs up Uranus!

Who doesn’t? It’s the butt of every nine year old’s jokes. Pun intended. THIS is the level of the public’s sense of humor, and I intend to get a few bucks from each of them. Thumbs up Uranus!

Comedy Combat

November 16, 2013

Friday November 15th, 2013 – Plainwell, MI

It was another rough night at the office, but again nobody else needed to know. Tonight’s show was at Rhino’s Pub in Plainwell, MI, once again for my friend Phil Anglin. Phil is one of my top favorite people of all time to work for, just because he’s such a big fan of comedy. It’s a pleasure to work for people like that, but unfortunately there are far too few. It’s not like this every week.

If Phil booked the Funny Bone or Improv chains, I’d be sitting pretty. He thinks I am hilarious, and that’s all any comedian needs. If the person that books the shows is on board, life is a breeze. I do have a lot of bookers who love me, but unfortunately they aren’t the ones with the big gigs.

I’m royalty in places like Springfield, IL and Plainwell, MI but can’t find a way to get booked at an Improv to save my life. Radio is painfully similar. I’m at the top of the go to list for ‘Stone and Double T’ in Rockford, IL but ‘Bob and Tom’ who are on in 200 plus markets hate my guts.

This is how it is, and there’s not a damn thing I can do but keep slugging. I am who I am and it tends to polarize people. I’m loved and loathed, but that’s a requirement for any good entertainer. The trick is to get the people to love you be the ones that have the real power. That’s not so easy.

I still love working for Phil though, and he sure does know how to run a bar and grill correctly. It’s always been a fun experience to work for him through the years. I never want to see anybody take it in the shorts financially, but especially Phil. I want us all to make money so I’ll be back.

It was a lot more crowded tonight than last night in Richland, but the sound system was terrible and that was a killer. We were screwed before we started, and there was nothing any of us could do but work through it. It was too late for fixing, and there was a room full of paying customers.

Bad sound is my worst nightmare. I’m not very cute, so bad lighting I can live with. It’s livable if they can’t see me, but if they can’t hear me I’m toast. My style is very verbal, and I use a lot of lists and rely on rhythm to beat an audience into submission. I need to talk over them to succeed.

That wasn’t happening tonight, and it changed my entire rhythm. I have enough experience to know what to do, but it was a major adjustment and I had to be in the moment the whole time up there. As I was doing one piece of material, I was thinking about which one would fit next to get their attention. I needed to get them laughing hard up front so they’d be quiet and let me finish.

Of course when alcohol is involved, that changes the equation dramatically. There were two or three tables that were constantly chattering, and I had to stop the show several times to ask them to please be quiet so I could finish the show. They wouldn’t do it, and I had all I could to do stop myself from walking over there and kicking them in their drunken asses. They ruined the show.

Once again, I strapped on the false face and got through it but it was not fun in the least. I have had to fight this kind of thing for a lifetime, and I’m just done with it. Phil apologized profusely, but it’s not his fault. Drunken idiots are everywhere. He’ll have to improve the sound system if he wants to do more shows, and I’m sure he will. It was never like that before, but tonight it was for whatever reason and I had to fight like hell to do my job. If comedy is combat, I’m a Navy Seal.

Standup comedy without an adequate sound system is like full on combat. It's intense.

Standup comedy without an adequate sound system is like full on combat. It’s intense.

The Power Of Perception

July 25, 2013

Wednesday July 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL 

   One of the most important aspects of the entertainment game is unfortunately one of my worst attributes, and that’s correctly working the politics angle. I have never been good at it, and it has cost me more than dearly. If comedy were real politics, I’d be grouped with the all time pariahs.

   At least Gary Hart, Eliot Spitzer and so many more went down in a sex scandal. My downfall has mostly been not being able to shut my big mouth. I tend to call things as I see them, and that doesn’t tend to sit well with everybody – especially those in the line of fire. I am far more often the hardest on myself than anybody else, but that’s never what gets remembered in the long run.

   Many people in the business have extremely thin skins even more so than in the rest of society. There are nuts in all walks of life, but entertainment is like a giant Payday candy bar. It’s loaded with them to the point of that being the main ingredient. I’ve had to learn to play cards delicately.

   Unfortunately, I’ve made some legendary mistakes that have held me back a lot more than they should have. The powers that be can be extremely unforgiving, and I’ve suffered greatly. It’s not fair, but fair has never been part of the equation. The jungle isn’t fair, and neither is this business.   

   One example is the Bob and Tom radio show in Indianapolis. They are on in 200 or so markets give or take, and they prominently feature comedians on their show. I’d been a guest about six or seven times, and had always done well. I know how to do radio, and was starting to get frequent air time. One day I showed up and apparently did something they didn’t like – and it was all over.

   They never did tell me what I did, but they physically removed me from the studio and made a huge deal over something I still can’t understand. They had asked me to tell a story from a book of comedian’s road stories called ‘I Killed’, and I merely did what they asked. They went off the deep end, and there was nothing I could do about it. They vaporized me like I have never existed.

   I tried to apologize for whatever I did when it happened, but they would not hear a word of it. I got thrown out like a vagrant, and they threw me off their live tour also. I tried to write a letter of apology – even though I still don’t know what I was apologizing for – and they all ignored me.

   For whatever reason, they had it in their minds that I was a bad guy and they shunned me like a leper. I can bitch about it all I want, but it won’t change anything. Was it fair? Of course not, but we already know about fair. They don’t like me, and the only thing that would change it might be for me to get so famous they’d want me because of public demand. I wouldn’t need them then.

   Another stinging example is a chain of comedy clubs called The Funny Bone. They’ve got a lot of clubs all over the country, and most of them are within driving distance of Chicago. I’ve never been one of their main ‘go to’ guys, but I have worked for them occasionally through the years.

   A couple of years ago, I wrote an entry in this very diary about a manager of one of their clubs that passed away. I knew the guy, and while I had nothing personal against him I thought he was not the most professional in how he handled business. I chose to not participate in his politics.

   I knew a lot of comics that flat out couldn’t stand him, but I was never one of those. Mine was just a professional beef, and in retrospect I mentioned that I had played the politics of the game completely incorrectly. That was the main thrust of my post – but it wasn’t taken that way at all.

   For whatever reason, that particular post made the rounds and I was vilified as if I had written a hate letter to Mother Theresa. I was getting nasty emails from wannabe comedians from that area that didn’t even know me, wishing me to rot in hell and that I should have died instead of him.

   I couldn’t believe one little post had caused that big of an uproar, so I went back and reviewed it to see if I had been too harsh on the guy in any way. Try as I might I sure couldn’t see it, and it clearly pointed the finger of blame at me as I had intended. It was too late by then. I was cooked.

   My one tiny little inane posting spread around to Funny Bone managers across the country and before I knew it I was banned like explosives in an airport. Dave Stroupe is in charge of booking many of the Funny Bones, and although we were never close I had crossed paths with him a few times. We got along fine, but I’ve never been one to push friendships with people that have clout.

   I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like them as people first, not for how they could advance my career. That’s about as wrong as can be as far as the politics game should be played, but I never wanted to be fake. Too bad for me, as that’s not how the jungle operates.

  Two more people that apparently hate my guts are Colleen Quinn in Omaha and Al Canal in St. Louis. They both sent me blunt harsh emails basically telling me they’d never use me because of what I said about the person in question. I don’t think they ever actually took time to read what I wrote, as if they had they’d see that he wasn’t the target but I was. Too bad. Perception is reality.

   This has been a very painful lesson in both cases, as it doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. That’s not how the game works. Perception is far more important than fact, and it sucks to be on the bad side of it – which I apparently am with these people. No matter how hard I try, they shut me out.

   The funniest part of all of this is that I’ve never ever considered anything I write to make a bit of difference in any way. I don’t think I’m important or that one key stroke I make has an impact on anything in this world. I write as a daily mental exercise, not to purposely piss anybody off.

   If anything, the only people I really aim for are comedians coming up the ranks. Of anyone on this planet, I know how brutally difficult this business can be and I try to speak openly of it all so someone else can hopefully avoid all the stupid mistakes I’ve made. I want to be a warning light, so hopefully someone else can play politics better than I have. It’s been a major obstacle for me.

   My policy has always been and still is now – if a situation is ugly I’ll leave names out of it, but still tell the story. If I do happen to include names, I consider the situation positive or at least not antagonistic. That’s why I included the Funny Bone manager’s name in my initial post. I was not angry at him personally, but it was a mistake to name him because everyone else misunderstood.

   Again, I don’t think anything I prattle about means a plugged nickel in the big scheme of life. I crank out my little poop sheet every day, and I probably should stop but it’s become so much of a part of my life by now I think it’s too late. Hopefully, I’ll get some readers who take it how it’s meant. I listed names in this post, because although these people have me on their most hated list I don’t hate them at all. It’s business, but they took it personally. That used to be my big mistake.

   So, here I sit. Bob and Tom hate me and they’re on in 200 markets. ‘Stone and Double T’ love me – but they’re only on in Rockford, IL. The Funny Bones torched me from their twenty clubs, but three Zanies in Chicago love me. Any good entertainer is both loved and hated. I’ve arrived.

In Rust We Trust

January 30, 2013

Saturday January 26th, 2013 – Latrobe, PA

   The ‘King of The Rust Belt’ strikes again! I had a sizzling hot show tonight in Latrobe, PA that was right up there with the best I’ve ever had, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. This is right in my element, and I can swing a mighty hammer in these situations. I need to find more of them.

Put me in front of a friendly blue collar audience over thirty in a rust belt town and I’m good to go. I know how to touch these people, and make them laugh until they can’t breathe. They totally get the concept of Mr. Lucky, as they can all relate to it in their own lives in one way or another.

I’ve done well in other parts of the country, but The Rust Belt is my wheel house. Anywhere in the vicinity of a Great Lake is usually my bread and butter and I love working places many other comics prefer to stay away from like Buffalo or Detroit or some smaller town that has nasty cold weather and a ravaged economy. I’ll show up. Those are the people that need to laugh the most.

Latrobe, PA is about fifty miles east of Pittsburgh, and they’ve been putting on comedy shows for the Parks and Recreation Department for many years. Jeff Schneider from the Funny Bone in Pittsburgh has been booking the talent, and asked me last summer if I wanted to do it this year.

I wasn’t looking forward to the drive, but he told me it was a good gig and the comics he’d sent in previous years all had fun. I assumed I probably would too, but not to this level. I was at home from the time I stepped on the stage until I got off 55 minutes later. I could have done longer, but those people had laughed enough. It was time for them to go home and they went home satisfied.

Of course like a dummy I didn’t bring any CDs or DVDs to sell, and that was a major mistake I won’t soon make again. There were about 350 people that would have cleaned out any and all of my merchandise inventory, and I blew a fantastic chance to return home with a significant bonus.

Merchandise has never been a strong part of my game, and that needs to change yesterday. I’m leaving well earned money on the table, and that’s just not smart business. Not every crowd buys merchandise, but those that do usually do it in droves. This would have been one of those nights.

Still, it was a wonderful experience all around and I’m glad I came – long drive and all. Doing shows like this is why I got into comedy in the first place, and if I have my way I’ll be doing lots more of them for as long as I’m breathing. There just isn’t anything else that gives me this buzz.

There’s no way I shouldn’t be rich doing this, and I’m going to find out how to achieve that so I don’t have to keep driving ratty cars and living like a lowly bum. I’ve spent my life getting my ‘show’ part down, now it’s time to master my ‘business’. I made a few bucks tonight, but I could be making a whole lot more doing exactly the same thing. I need to tighten up my plan of action.

James Gregory is a comedian from Atlanta who kills in the Southeast. He sells out theatres and his fans adore him. He doesn’t work anywhere else because he doesn’t have to. He’s a huge draw in his area and I find nothing wrong with that. I’d love to be the James Gregory of The Rust Belt.

Cranberry Stomping

March 7, 2010

Saturday March 6th, 2010 – Cranberry, PA

Totally different vibe onstage tonight. Wow! THIS is the reason I started doing comedy, only dreaming someday I’d be having shows like this. Now I am, and I’m going to take it all in and enjoy every last tiny morsel. No matter what else happens, I’ve lived my dream.

Maybe that initial dream was a little fuzzy, and maybe I was more than a little naïve. Or both. I guess I just assumed that having great shows would lead to wealth and fame, but it totally doesn’t. There are so many other things involved besides talent that nobody knows or thinks about at the beginning, and it’s probably good because everyone would just quit.

From the very start, I knew that comedy was a craft. I also knew I wanted to be a master craftsman, and that it would take years to attain that status. I don’t know why I knew that, but I absolutely did. Now I can look back and be extremely proud of myself for not giving up like I’ve seen countless others do along the way. I could have too, but I stayed with it.

Tonight’s show at the Funny Bone was about as hot as a standup comedy show gets. It’s the best feeling in the world when audience and performer are on the same page, and I felt it from the first ten seconds on stage. I knew this was going to be fun, so I dug in and let it rip. I was in perfect time, and prowled the stage knowing I’d be able to make it all work.

Shows like this don’t come along every night, but when they do I’m seasoned enough to be able to recognize it right away and make the most of it. I wasn’t feeling good at all off stage, but the audience doesn’t care about that. They paid their money and a percentage of them didn’t feel that great themselves. They wanted to see a show. I didn’t blame them.

I don’t know how I did it, but I hurt my left knee and it’s excruciating. I must have done something, but I have no idea what. Maybe I twisted it in my sleep or something but I had a hell of a time walking on it all day and it was hell getting in and out of my car. Plus, I’m trying to get over a horrific sore throat and my voice was strained and squeaking all night.

I really didn’t feel like doing a show at all, but there was a full house tonight and among the people there was the owner Jeff Schneider’s wife Laurie. She lived in Milwaukee way back in the beginning when I was just starting, and I ate many a meal at their house at that time. One Thanksgiving I was there with Bill Engvall, as he was at the club that week.

I hadn’t seen Laurie in many years, and she sells real estate now. She brought a group of her friends out specifically to see me, and that made me feel really good. I thanked her for her cooking and generosity all those years ago, and apologized for all the horrific sets she sat through at the beginning when I was beyond horrible. She smiled and gave me a hug.

“Everyone has to start out somewhere, but we ALWAYS knew that you were funny. It’s no surprise you’re doing well, and I wanted to bring my friends to see you.” I almost cried when she said that, and it really meant a lot. She did see me when I started, and she didn’t have to come back all these years later, but she did. And then I went up and kicked ASS.

It was one of those nights when everything went right, and when that happens it’s like a spiritual experience. It almost feels out of body. I read once where great athletes get in the zone where not only do they know where the ball is, they know where it’s GOING to be.

The same feeling applies to this. I not only know what’s working now, I can sense what bits I should do following the one I’m currently doing. I’m in the moment and performing the bit I’m doing, but another part of my mind is sorting through my rolodex of other bits.

It’s odd, but not unpleasurable. I love having the complete control of the whole show at my fingertips and choosing where to take them next. Tonight was one of those nights that they were going to let me, and I could feel their intense silence as they soaked in the show because I’d earned their trust. There are two kinds of silence, and this was the good one.

The opening act this weekend was a very funny 27 year old kid out of New York named Joe Pontillo. I thought he had some very well written funny material and wasn’t a pain off stage either. It was a well  booked show where all the acts blended together. It’s frightening how many bookers don’t ever grasp that idea, but Jeff is one of the few who totally does.

I was watching Joe’s set when I saw two people get up and walk out. I know Joe saw it too, but when that happens there aren’t many choices. Talking to them would have drawn attention to it, and there was a possibility of it getting uglier than it already was. The rest of the audience liked him fine, and they didn’t really care if a random couple didn’t agree.

This is a tough situation, and every comedian has to face it at some point. It’s a blow to the ego to have anyone get up and walk out during a performance, and I’ve had it happen to me many times. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. It just goes with the territory.

I talked to Joe about it after the show and he said it did rattle him at first, and I told him that’s perfectly normal. I also told him he reacted 100% correctly by not saying any nasty comments on the way out and just letting them go. I also told him the reason people leave isn’t always that they didn’t like the show. I have my own personal horror story with that.

I was in New York City a few years ago visiting my friend Ross Bennett. We were club hopping and he had a set to do at another club and gave me the high sign we needed to get going. The bad thing was, I was watching Dave Chappelle at the time and the only way to exit the club was to walk through the audience and it couldn’t be done inconspicuously.

I tried to be as invisible as I could, but Dave immediately drew attention to it and it was very uncomfortable for everybody. I knew it bothered him, and I wanted to explain why it was happening, but I just lowered my head and kept going. It had nothing to do with him.

Joe is a funny kid and he’ll be fine, and as I watched him throw out his lines it sure did remind me of myself twenty years ago when I was trying to find my way in the business. I guess I still am in some ways, but onstage I’ve really come a long way. Dave Chappelle is a lot richer than I am, but as far as sheer satisfaction goes – nobody can touch me tonight.

Needy For A CD

March 6, 2010

Friday March 5th, 2010 – Cranberry, PA

Boy, am I out of road shape. I’m embarrassed. I used to be able to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and drive for twelve hours or more, then go on stage without a nap. After that I’d still be able to stay up and hang with the comics afterward. I’m afraid those days are over.

I accepted a last minute fallout this weekend in the Pittsburgh area at the Funny Bone in Cranberry. I’ve been here before and it’s an easy gig – one show a night, great hotel. It’s a few bucks in the pocket for a relatively low risk. The worst part is the length of the drive.

It was 623 miles from where I live to the hotel, but I went down through Indianapolis so I could hook up with my friend Greg Phelps. He’s going to be handling the duplication on my LONG overdue CD project, and I needed to work out some details. It was easier to get it done face to face than send endless emails back and forth. It‘s already been far too long.

He’s a former comedian so he knows the game, and he’s been very helpful so far. I trust Greg’s judgment, but it’s time to get something OUT. I finally have all the parts finished, it’s time to make a product already. I finished the liner notes yesterday and I’ve made this packaging a lot less elaborate than the first one. My needs are completely different now.

I wanted to make the first one something I could be proud of. I wanted it to look like I’d signed a recording deal, and I think I pulled that off. I still get airplay on XM/Sirius and it was attractive enough in content to sell to Laughing Hyena Records to put in truck stops.

That’s not bad for a debut, but I know I can do way better. This new one has some solid bits on it, and I remember really liking the vibe I had when I came off stage. It won’t suck or take a step down, so that’s a positive. In a perfect world I’d love to have a dozen CDs.

Comics have different opinions on this. Jay Leno for example, has NEVER put out any recordings of his act to my knowledge. He chooses to sell his exclusively in a live setting, and he’s done quite well for himself by doing that. It makes sense and I respect his policy.

For me, I’d like to get my material out there. I’ve got a lot that hasn’t been recorded yet, and I find that most people who see me live have never seen me at all anyway, so it really doesn’t matter what material I choose to use then. The recordings are for different people. I happen to enjoy comedy recordings myself, but there’s no doubt comedy is better live.

Either way, I need a CD I can sell after shows. People constantly ask, and I’m losing out on potential income every day I don’t have one. That should change in a week or so and it was worth it to stop and see Greg. There’s nobody to blame but me, but it’s getting fixed.

The rest of the drive was pretty brutal. I’ve got a horrible sore throat and there was a big accident in downtown Columbus, OH that backed up I-70 traffic for over an hour. I ended up making it to Cranberry two minutes before show time. This is stress I don’t need, and I felt out of sync the entire show. I’m not the young road buck anymore, but I‘m ok with it.

Getting My Schlitz Together

March 5, 2010

Thursday March 4th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Ft. Atkinson, WI

It seems like I’m in Milwaukee more now than when I lived there, but that’s where a lot of my business is leading right now. The “Schlitz Happened!” one man show is starting to take shape, but now is when I’m going to have to make some difficult decisions. I need to hash out details and percentages of those I’m working with so there are no ugly surprises.

I’m the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’m also a pigheaded control freak in a situation where creative control is involved. This is MY baby, and I’m very protective of it – especially right now in it’s infancy. I have a vision of how I see it developing and I’m not going to settle for anything less. I’m not so sure the people on my team see that now.

I had a lunch with Ron Lee, the guy who produced comedy shows in the ‘80s at Teddy’s on Farwell, which is now Shank Hall. I like Ron and we’ve worked together over time on some fun and interesting projects, including a cable TV show and also at 93QFM in 1991.

Ron has booked bands and likes to promote things and we have a history of working on many things together. I wanted to meet face to face and discuss what he saw as his role in this project and if I could meet his expectations. He’s been making some calls and setting up meetings without my approval, and quite honestly it bothers me a little. I’m concerned.

It’s not his fault that I got cleaned out by my last business partner, but that whole fiasco is still a fresh welt on my fanny and that’s just fact. I know everyone needs to get paid for their time, and I’m fine with it – but I’m not so sure I really need any partners right now in a project that hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet. It’s promising, but still only an idea.

I’m going to have final say in this particular project. Period. Meeting with sponsors and potential sponsors is something I’ve never really done before, but I need to get experience sometime and that time is coming soon. I’m a little concerned that things are going ahead with potential sponsors without me having met anyone yet. There’s a fine line to toe here.

I don’t care if it’s Ron Lee or Richard Halasz or Colonel Tom Parker, I’m just a bit wary of people negotiating anything ‘on my behalf’. I just am. Maybe that’s the dented can side of me that will always be there, but it’s there and now is the time to set parameters for the duration of this project. If I establish rules now, I’ll either keep or lose everyone involved.

Now is the time to do that, rather than a year from now when money is involved. I like Ron Lee and I like Richard Halasz too, and both of them are working on promoting some upcoming shows. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as to what all of our roles are so nobody is taken aback. Better to talk it out now than have lawyers do it later.

Right now I want to do a few smaller shows and work out the bugs. I have an extremely full cupboard of actual material, now I want to shape it into a dynamite SHOW. It will be a work in progress as long as I do it, but I want to hit the ground running when I begin the bigger shows later in the year. I’ve got a plan of exactly how I see the show developing.

The offstage part is where I’m a little shaky, and I fully admit I’ve never enjoyed doing this part of the business. That’s why I’ve worked with the Ron Lees and the other guy for so long. I let them handle as many unpleasant or uninteresting things as I could so I could focus on what I do best – create things. I think I’m going to have to restructure my M.O.

To their credit, those guys worked with me for free on many occasions. None of us had money, and I’ve never hit any huge jackpots, but I have been able to squeak out a meager living for a quarter of a century. I’ve paid people when I could and what I could, and I’ve always tried to be fair and err on the generous side whenever I could. I’m a softie at heart.

When I got cleaned out it really rocked my world. It still hurts, and it didn’t need to take place at all. If the guy would have asked me, I would have given him the money until he’d be able to pay me back. Now we’re not friends anymore and I’m still out a chunk of cash.

Ron has never stolen money from me, but there really hasn’t been much to steal. After a lot of years of working with me for little or no money, I’d like to see him get a payday for his effort. Maybe I’m too soft, but I want to see all the people around me get their reward.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to give away a percentage of the show though. As much as I like both Ron and Richard, neither of those guys wrote one word of the show or had one ounce of creative input in how it all came together. They can promote shows all they want in as many places as they want, and they should be paid for that. But they’re not owners.

I’M the owner of this concept for now. If I decide to sell it, someone will have to put up cash money on the barrelhead to buy it. Sponsors would be great, but let’s get a hot show set and running first. I also need a synopsis of the concept so those sponsors know what it is so they can either sponsor it or not. I need a few chances to run through to polish it up.

This was a great eye opener today, and I’m glad I drove up. I’m going to go with my gut and my gut tells me to hold this close to my chest and do as much of it myself as possible until I really need to cut anyone else in as far as ownership goes. That’s ringing out loudly in my head and I hear it clearly. No offense to anyone else, but I’ve earned this by now.

I’m in the driver’s seat, and I’m sure it will work how it works. I’m not going to worry about it, and let it sit for a couple of days while I go to Pittsburgh to work in Cranberry at the Funny Bone this weekend. I’ll have plenty of time to think all this through in the car.

Tonight I had a show in Ft. Atkinson, WI at a biker bar that I’ve actually worked before for a comic friend of mine name Dan Still. Steve Sabo books it now, and I didn’t know it was the same place until I got there. They expanded and made it bigger, but it’s still a bar in Ft. Atkinson, WI. I did it for the money, but the people were actually pretty friendly.

Still, these are getting very old. The smoke was thick and my clothes smelled in the car like a non filter Pall Mall cigarette that my grandpa used to smoke. I appreciate the money but I’m hoping to weed these out of my schedule. Soon. I want to work the nicer theaters.