Posts Tagged ‘funny’

What Is Success?

July 9, 2014

Tuesday July 8th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The mystery of the way life works never ceases to fascinate me. On one hand, I’m having all of my dreams come true with my family after a lifetime of utter hopelessness and loneliness. But on the other, I’m seeing my career go absolutely nowhere after a lifetime of unbelievable sacrifice.

Which would I rather have? Why can’t I have both? Does anyone have a tight family bond and career success? I have to believe a lot of people do, and I want to be one of them. But if I have to choose one, I’ll take it exactly how it’s playing out. It’s giving me a power I’ve never had before.

There is a major healing process taking place inside me, and I’ve never felt better. It’s building on itself and creating a steady flow of positive energy, just as it was a constant source of pain and suffering before. Chasing the show business dream was a substitute for this, but it never worked.

It’s like the difference between the best tanning booth there is vs. an actual sunny beach. There is absolutely no comparison. The tanning booth is a substitute for the real thing, and quite often a career in show business serves the same purpose. I know it did for me, but this is so much better.

Would I have jumped head first into the rusty meat grinder of the entertainment business like I did had I had a tight bond with a family? I honestly can’t say. Usually having weak family ties is what keeps a person from turning back when the business gets tough. There are no alternatives.

That was definitely the case with me. I look back at all the dues I paid and the crap I swallowed from bully bar owners and slimy bookers, and had I had a loving family support structure I doubt I’d have lasted close to this long. This can be a brutal business, and I don’t know how I survived.

Now it’s to the point where I’m not surviving, even though that’s not my fault. It’s that way for just about everybody these days, and there are a lot of miserable people out there that have paid a lifetime of dues just like I have. There were never any guarantees anyone would be ‘successful’.

And what exactly is ‘success’? It’s different for everybody, and after a lifetime of thinking I’ve been a lowly bum I totally haven’t. I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot considering the place I came from, and I should be extremely proud of myself. But am I done? I don’t see why I have to be.

I’ll be the first to admit I have made some gargantuan goofs career wise. I’ve managed to piss off some people with power, but only on a certain level. I’m not a bad person, and the minute I’d get any heat whatsoever I know those people would come running to kiss my ass and book me.

I used to really want to please those people and get bookings so I could ‘show’ others – mainly my family – that I was indeed worth something after all. Well, now I don’t need to show anyone anything anymore and that has changed my whole viewpoint on life. Now I’m doing it for all the right reasons, and I have to believe the results will be better. And if they aren’t, that’s fine too.

‘Getting famous’ can be a motivator for a lot of people because they want to use it as a tool for revenge. That never has a happy ending. I want to use it as a tool to help people however I can or to help raise awareness for worthy causes. It’s taken a lifetime, but I’m finally starting to get it.

What is success? Everyone's definition is different.

What is success? Everyone’s definition is different.

I wonder what hers is?

I wonder what hers is?

The Funniest Human

July 9, 2014

Monday July 7th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

A shocking revelation for those that aren’t in the business is that many professional comedians are not funny people in the least off stage. It is mistakenly assumed that since we make our living on stage getting audiences to laugh, it carries over into our personal lives and we’re always ‘on’.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, but that’s what far too many think. Dennis Miller referred to standup comedy as a “chimp trick”, and I see his point. I’ve always referred to it as a craft, and a craft can only be acquired through painstaking years of learning skills and putting them to use.

There are countless comedians that have a natural flair for being funny going in, but it still has to be polished and refined to a professional standard. Quite often that painful process tends to be what drives a lot of the funny out of those people, but if someone truly ‘has it’, it’s there for life.

There are also countless others that ‘have it’ – but never even once stand on a stage. My cousin Brett is one of those people. I would rank him up there with any of the top comedians I have ever met or seen, and had he wanted to he could have easily made his living doing what I have done.

Instead, he chose to be a union carpenter. He’s very good at what he does, but he faces many of the same issues I do with playing the politics game. Like me he’s terrible at it and knows it – and he also tends to shoot off his big mouth a lot like I do. We are definitely cut from the same cloth.

That’s likely what makes him so funny. He’s sick, twisted, vicious and unrelenting – and that’s a sincere compliment. Funny just flows through his veins, and no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other we can pick it up from where we left off and get each other going again.

There is no human nor animal on this planet that can make me laugh out loud harder than Brett. Nobody. He knows my buttons, and when he hits one he will not stop. He often makes me laugh so hard I think I’m going to suffocate from a lack of oxygen – but afterward I feel SO cleansed.

That’s what happened tonight as I drove to Milwaukee to have dinner with Brett. We try to get together once a month if we can, but sometimes we’ll miss. We both happened to be off tonight, so we enjoyed a rack of ribs at Famous Dave’s which is one of our favorite spots and caught up.

Brett and his father had about the same relationship me and mine did, and we have all kinds of similar issues about it. We were around each other growing up a lot more than I ever was with all of my siblings, so Brett is basically the younger brother I never had. I can’t call him little, as he’s about 6’4” with size 14 shoes. He could twist my head of like a bottle cap, but he never would.

Like my brother Larry, Brett is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He’s constantly giving of himself – and constantly getting taken advantage of. I think it goes with the territory, but it’s a part of who he is just like it is with Larry and me. We’re givers, and that’s what we do. Period.

I get to enjoy Brett’s dark and warped sense of humor all to myself, and it’s more precious than gold to me. I hope I have had that effect on others, onstage and off. It feels SO good to laugh that hard, and he’s the only one I can think of that can make me do it consistently. Now that’s a gift.

Who is the funniest person you know personally? It may not be a professional comedian.

Who is the funniest person you can think of? It may – or may not – be a comedian. For me it’s my cousin Brett. He cracks me up.

The Big Crap Shoot

August 14, 2013

Monday August 12th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

    Tonight I hosted the ‘Rising Star Showcase’ at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago as I have been doing frequently for several years. They’re held the first two Mondays of every month, and it’s a chance for up and coming comedians from all over to get a five minute audition for a booking.

   Nights like this used to be much more common in comedy clubs around the country, and I have myself driven anywhere from long to downright insane distances countless times for five minute chances to sell myself to a booker. It’s not the most economical way to do business, but it works.

   It boils down to one gambling on one’s own performing abilities with hope that the investment up front of driving time, gas, food and lodging will pay off on the back side with years of getting paid work. In theory, it’s always better to do a live set for a booker than to send a video. It’s easy for the booker to get distracted or not even watch a video. A live audition increases one’s odds.

   Still, there’s no guarantee of success. More than once I’ve driven across multiple states only to find out the booker that swore on two bibles he or she would be there had “something come up” and then leak out at the last minute. It’s maddening, but it goes with the territory. It’s a gamble.

   If I had to guess, I’d say in all the times I’ve driven somewhere to audition for work I’ve gotten hired about 90-95% of the time. If I didn’t get actual work, at least I was able to make enough of a favorable impression on a booker to be considered for future work. I only went when I thought I was ready, and it has paid off handsomely. Unfortunately, times have changed significantly.

   There was a very solid lineup of talent on the bill this evening, and as always I gave each one a stellar introduction and made sure the audience was paying attention. How many times has some bumbling emcee or worse yet drunken radio goof brought me up with a lousy intro? Too many.

   I go out of my way to respect the effort these people made to take their shot, as I’ve been there myself. Not all of them are ready, but that’s on them. From my standpoint everyone gets the star treatment with their intro so at least they’ll have a fair shot to prove themselves if they’re ready.

   Tonight’s lineup was absolutely ready. The audience was red hot as well. I’ve seen it line up in every combination from bad audience and good acts, good audience and bad acts to bad audience and bad acts. Tonight was good on all fronts, and when that happens it’s a pleasure to participate.

   I cheer for these comics to have solid sets, as I can so relate to what they’ve done to get there. I give Bert Haas at Zanies credit for coming out on a night off to not only watch new talents but to give them feedback as well. It takes time out of his already busy schedule, and I wish there were more bookers that did it. It’s an extreme courtesy to the comedians whether they know it or not.

   Back when I was starting, having a solid set in front of a booker would almost guarantee work at some point – even if it was a couple of years down the road. Now, it means nothing. There are just too many acts for the amount of available work, and most acts tonight won’t get a booking.

   Does it mean they weren’t funny? Not at all. A few were a little green, but they still had a lot of potential. Will they be ready in six months or a year? Maybe, but if they’re not getting paid work on a regular basis somewhere, it makes it tougher to hang in there and keep getting the stage time it takes to get better. How does anyone get seen and ‘make it’? I wish I knew. It’s all a crapshoot.

I QUIT!

May 23, 2013

Tuesday May 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   There’s a major upheaval going on inside my head, and I couldn’t be more excited. I know that I need to completely rewire my beliefs down to the core, and as scary as that may be I’m ready to dive in with both feet and make a full commitment. Upgrading my car was a very positive start.

   The next thing that needs to be tweaked heavily is my model for career success. The world I’m in now both professionally and as a whole is completely different than the world I started in, but that can be said of anyone. We’re all learning to adapt and adjust, but the older we are the harder it is to do. Comedians of my generation were spoiled. We got to experience those fabulous ‘80s.

   That was an amazing time to be a comedian – probably the best ever. I’m delighted I got to see and experience it firsthand, but those days are gone forever. I can’t go on conducting business as if times haven’t changed. They absolutely have, and comics from my generation are hit hardest.

   We all clearly remember when there were more clubs than acts, and anyone with a phone and a functioning car could get booked enough to at least squeak out a living. It only lasted for a short time, but boy was it fun. It’s nothing like that now, and that means I have to come up with a new plan – or have a plan period. Back then nobody thought about anything other than their next gig.

   We were able to easily bring in a livable wage almost immediately – even as an opening act – so that virtually NOBODY even thought about merchandising except my friend James Gregory from Atlanta. Kudos and then some to James for being the nationwide leader years before I saw anyone else do it. People used to snicker at him for selling his wares, but who’s laughing now?

   James was smart enough to treat comedy like a BUSINESS. That’s exactly what it is, but most of the rest of us weren’t that smart. We stupidly assumed everything would ‘just work out’ for all us and even stupider than that we assumed it would last forever. I’m embarrassed that I did too.

   Nobody pictures getting older or the times changing, and NONE of us saw the internet coming – not even James. That was the giant fire breathing cross between an elephant and a dragon that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere and completely changed the game. It took a while, but it’s here to stay. Anyone who enters the game today has a whole new set of paradigms to deal with.

   I can’t speak for the others of my generation, even though I know more than a few aren’t liking the way things have evolved. I’m not thrilled with it myself, but I have to enter into a mindset of today in order to continue or you can make my next check out to ‘Mr. Edsel’. It’s a new world.

   Unfortunately, funny has little or nothing to do with the game today. It’s all about being able to get noticed. Who has the most Facebook friends? Who can put asses in seats? It wouldn’t matter in the least if the ‘next big thing’ in comedy wouldn’t get ONE laugh. If he or she could fill seats in a comedy club, they’d be instant headliners. I didn’t create this world, but it’s where we live.

   If Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson were to be released from prison and decide to do a tour of comedy clubs, they’d sell out coast to coast in minutes. Again, I’m just reporting the truth. I wish it mattered who’s funny and ethical and nice, but none of that has anything to do with anything. I don’t have to like the way things are going, but I do have to deal with it. The ‘80s are over on the calendar, and they have to be over in my head too. It was a great time, but I can’t live there now. I am now an internet marketer specializing in humorous content. As far as a comedian – I QUIT!    

The Funniest Broadcaster

April 5, 2013

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   I was listening to the Milwaukee Brewers broadcast on WTMJ radio today, and I’m still blown away by the greatness of Bob Uecker. That guy is FUNNY. Period. I remember listening as a kid when he was just starting, and I thought he was a riot then. All these years later, he’s still got it.

I do think funny is an inherent trait for the most part. I know I had it from an early age, and had the ability to make both kids and adults laugh almost at will. I don’t know how I knew how to do that, but I did it whenever I could – usually to the extreme dissatisfaction of an authority figure.

Not many teachers were impressed by my rapier wit, and even fewer bosses liked it when I got out in the working world. I was anything but funny to them as I cracked off line after line, but no force on Earth could stop me from going for the laugh. Like a pig enjoys mud, I enjoy laughter.

I really do think it’s an addiction, but what a wonderful one it is. I can’t see there being a wing at the Betty Ford Clinic for smart asses any time soon, and if there is I don’t want to go. I’m only happy when I can go for the laugh in most situations. Whatever normal is, it doesn’t interest me.

That being said, it has always completely baffled me at how many shoot for a career in comedy that aren’t the least bit funny off stage. It’s been that way since I started, and I have no doubt it’s been around a lot longer than that. For some reason, some people feel a need to pee in the pool.

A guy like Bob Uecker would have been funny if he worked in a funeral parlor. He’s just got it in him, and he can’t help it. I can’t either. I tried being quiet in school and an employee who was ‘on the team’ and all that, but I just couldn’t do it for long. My true colors came out and stayed.

Unfortunately, funny is a subjective thing and not everyone agrees on what does or doesn’t fall into said category. When I was a kid, there were some older kids in my neighborhood that would constantly shoot lines from Jerry Lewis movies back and forth. They thought he was the funniest thing ever, and I never got what they thought was so funny. I still don’t. He does nothing for me.

I guess it’s like a favorite band or restaurant. Once a taste is acquired, it can be enjoyed by the person who acquires it and it becomes the desired standard. We all have individual taste buds, so it’s all over the board as to what’s considered good or not. Nothing is ever liked by everybody.

I know a guy who can’t stand Bob Uecker, as hard as that is for me to grasp. Whenever I bring up how funny I think he is the guy goes off in six directions how he’s overrated and shouldn’t be on the air, blah blah blah. It reminds me how humble we all need to be, as we all have detractors.

I’ve seen more than my share of people walk past me after a show and not even look me in the eye. Those that do have a look of either disappointment or disgust, and I always try to smile wide and make it extra uncomfortable for them on their way out. I find it hilarious when that happens.

It’s a numbers game, and always has been. Life itself is a numbers game from the time that one tiny sperm cell makes it to the egg first and the billions of losers never get to see the light of day. It’s a cruel and vicious world sometimes, but I didn’t design it. I’m just trying to figure it all out.

Before it’s all over, I’d love to get a chance to meet Bob Uecker and tell him how much I have always enjoyed his immense talent. It doesn’t have to be long, a quick handshake and hopefully a picture would do it. I have friends who can make this happen, and it’s time to ask for their help.

Still Not Over It

December 18, 2012

Saturday December 15th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL/Glenview, IL

   Comedians as a collective group can be some of the most insensitive people on the planet when it comes to showing tact when discussing controversial topics. It’s our job to rattle the cages of a mostly thick headed public, and we quickly develop a thick skin and aren’t afraid to push limits.

Even the most taboo of subjects can be hilariously funny between comedians, and we often tell each other wildly offensive jokes none of us would ever dare try on any stage. I will admit, I’m a big fan of these kinds of jokes only because I know they’re jokes. I don’t take the words literally.

The reason comedians are so seemingly callous is that our point of being surprised by anything has been pushed so far back over time we have to go a lot farther than anyone else to get any sort of reaction. It’s like an addict or alcoholic needing more to attain their buzz. A tolerance is built.

There are all kinds of dark and severely twisted jokes that are extremely funny about all kinds of delicate and unfunny subjects from spousal abuse to Hitler to the Kennedy assassination. They show up out of nowhere and spread like wildfire, and this has taken place since the dawn of man.

I don’t claim to be a psychologist, but I’m sure it helps the human psyche deal with things that are shocking and painful. Laughter is a defense mechanism, and comes in our human tool box at birth. Comedians didn’t put it there, but we definitely learn to operate it better than anyone else.

A good example is my friend Larry Reeb. “Uncle Lar” is a hilarious comedian out of Chicago, and one of the best club comics to ever step on a stage. His tag line is “It’s a sick world, and I’m a happy guy.” He has some of the most shocking jokes I’ve ever heard, but audiences love him.

Part of the fact is that he’s a wonderful guy. Off stage, he’s laid back and mellow and actually a very well read articulate person. I’ve been friends with Larry for years, and we’ve gotten along extremely well. Quite often we engage in conversation that has nothing to do with being funny.

Then there are times we make each other laugh uproariously. If someone were to record any of those verbal exchanges, we’d probably both be charged with felonies but we both know what we are saying is only in the context of being funny. It’s between us only, so nobody gets offended.

All that being said, I’m still unable to find a single thing even remotely funny about the horrific events of the Connecticut school shootings. It disgusts me to the core, and as difficult as it was to do I tried to avoid it all day. It took over television, radio and internet but I couldn’t stand it after about five minutes and had to turn it off. Normally my brain would search for where the funny is.

With this particular series of events, I just don’t think it’s there. It takes a lot to shock me about anything, but this comes about as close as I’d ever like to get. What could cause anyone to go off the deepest part of the deep end like this is beyond my ability to comprehend, and when I attempt to figure it out I get nothing but a sick feeling of emptiness in the pit of my stomach and a feeling of deep sadness for what all of the families must be going through. There’s nothing funny there.

There’s Life On Uranus!

February 4, 2010

Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Milwaukee, WI

I’m in a splendiferistic place in my head right now and I never want to leave. Things are falling into place in many areas and I can feel that I’m in the prime of my life. That might end before the weekend, or last for thirty years. Either way, I‘m feeling at peace TODAY.

Maybe this is the manic part of manic depression, but I don’t feel that way. I’ve had ups and downs my whole life, but this is different. There is just an inner energy that is pulsing through me that is completely engulfing me in a feeling of confidence, direction and dare I say it – love. That’s a powerful word, but that’s how I’m describing what I’m feeling.

What really put me in a good frame of mind this morning was getting an email from my web guy for the Uranus website Mark Huelskamp. We’ve been going back and forth for a couple of weeks now, and he’s taken control of this project from my friend Shelley who’d been helping me before. Shelley has been great, but I needed to take it to a higher level.

Shelley has a job and family and was doing it to help me as a friend. I totally appreciate that, but if I’m going to make a dream happen, I have to dive in all the way. Mark does it for a living, and he’s the brother in law of my comedian friend Jim McHugh. I don’t trust a lot of people, but Jim I do and he’s the one who set us up. Today I was thrilled he did.

Mark sent me about 2000 different fonts to look at and a few mockup website templates and we went back and forth on it for a while. Today he sent me the final product and it hit me right between the eyes. He nailed it and I just about started crying. It was exactly what I wanted. It has great eye appeal and is what I had pictured all along. It lit up my being.

This whole project has taken a lot longer than I expected and cost a lot more money that I don’t have to pay for things I didn’t want to buy. I first thought of it all the way back on September 1st, 2007 at the Baymont Inn in Salt Lake City. It’s taken over two years to get it this far, and I still haven’t sold the first product yet. That being said, I know it’ll work.

I’ve experimented a little with the concept and have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone who has seen it. Uranus is funny. Period. It always has been, and I don’t care if they try to change the pronunciation for the kids today. It’s a giant butt joke and there are endless ways to get to it. Now it’s my job to find as many of them as I can.

I didn’t invent Uranus jokes, but I’m going to claim them for my own. David Letterman didn’t invent the top ten list, but he made that his own. He claimed it, and it became what most people know his show for. Good for him, a trademark is not easy to acquire. It’s not something someone sits down with a pen and pad and makes up. It just kind of happens.

That’s how this idea came about. I was in the shower and it hit me out of nowhere but I was smart enough to listen and get out and start writing it down. Ideas kept flowing and I kept writing, and I still have all those notes today. I just haven’t done as much with them as I should have, and I wish I knew why. I’ve been very inconsistent, but not anymore.

Looking at that website template sent electricity through my veins. I actually got to SEE it with my own eyes, and I knew right there I was going to make it happen. I have no idea how I’m going to do it, and/or why I’m so confident, but I just know. It’s a great feeling.

I’ve got a ton of work ahead of me and I’m sure there will be crisis situations and every problem I never expected, but I’m not worried about any of that. I’m GOING to do this, if for no other reason than because it’s fun. I thought of it, I like it, and I’m doing it. Period.

That’s totally what life is all about, or at least I think it should be. Whether I ever make a nickel or not, it’s already been a success. It’s made a ton of people laugh who’ve heard of it and nothing else. I had a Uranus bumper sticker on the car I wrecked and all kinds of people beeped and gave me a thumbs up and even took pictures of it with a cell phone.

What I have to do is create an entire world around Uranus. See? That’s funny just to say out loud. Try it. And guess what? I’m the KING! How cool is that? What does a King Of Uranus exactly do? I haven’t figured that out yet. Why is there a King? Beats me. What’s so great is that nobody else knows either. I get to make it up and decide on all of it. Cool!

I guess I’m getting the chance to be a kid I never got when I was that age. There was all that ugliness and dysfunction going on that I had to grow up before I got a chance to blow all this juvenile poo out of my system when I was nine like I should have. It’s still in there all these years later, and it’s taken root in my soul. I’m having fun just thinking about this.

I had lunch in Chicago today with Marc Schultz. He saw how excited I was, and he said he’s never seen me so giddy about anything, even being on The Late Late Show last year. I have to admit, he’s right. This is THE most fun I’ve ever had in my life, and it isn’t even an actual entity yet. It’s getting there, and today was a big step. But, it’s still not a reality.

I drove up to Milwaukee to have dinner with my cousin Brett. We don’t get time to just sit and talk so tonight was a treat. He saw how much I was glowing and I tried to figure it all out with him. He’s known me his whole life, and has seen the ups and downs. He’s an amazingly creative guy and we’re on a similar wavelength. He sees what I’m trying to do.

The one thing we agreed on was that anger toward the past and especially our fathers is not the answer, and never was. Maybe that’s what’s gone from my life and I’m finally in a position to enjoy the good things of life rather than be consumed by bitterness as I was for a lot of years. I missed out on a lot of good things, but I don’t feel I’m missing them now.

We had a Chinese buffet and it was delicious. Then we went to Leon’s and had sundaes and they were even better. I am realizing that the journey IS the happiness, and chasing is where the fun and adventure in any project is. I’ve now got the best chase I’ve ever had!

I’ve still got bills and rent and troubles and clutter and everything I had before I had my revelation today or whatever it was. The thing is, I don’t care about any of those things at all. I care about bringing this concept to life. My creative energy has an outlet in Uranus!