Posts Tagged ‘humorist’

The Golden Circle

February 22, 2014

Friday February 21st, 2014 – Ottawa, IL

Any time I can find a way to get paid and stay within a 100 mile radius of home, I consider it a personal victory. That’s the golden circle and anything farther than that becomes a road gig and a chore. I didn’t always feel that way, and in fact it was the exact opposite. I used to love to roam.

I used to look for bookings as far from home as possible in places I’d never been, and the only thing I cared about was if I could at least break even to pay for my trip. It was the experience that interested me, not the money. I wanted to explore new places and have adventures coast to coast.

Those days are long over. If I had my way now, I’d find a place where I could work whenever I want, and it would hopefully have an apartment upstairs so I’d never have to leave. I’d live out my days in one place, and not complain a bit. At this point, I wouldn’t really care where that is.

It would be a bonus to have nice weather, but it’s not a requirement. I stay in the Chicago area because I have a lot of friends here. I can squeak out a living because I’ve been around for years, and most of the bookers use me regularly. It’s not a career move to live here, so I’d gladly move anywhere an opportunity came up. But where would that be? I’ll think I have to create my own.

I really enjoyed living in Los Angeles, but that’s the last place to be able to squeak out a living doing comedy. It’s not near anything, and the gigs that are there don’t pay. It’s a showcase town. Everyone and their grandma thinks they’re going to be the next big star, and it’s not about work.

New York has never interested me in the least. It’s filthy, crowded, expensive and the weather is just like here. I wouldn’t be in the top 2000 of New York acts, so why move there and start at the bottom when I’m one of the top acts in Chicago? I see no reason to ever move to New York.

I love Las Vegas, but again there’s nothing near it. Would living in town give me enough work to be able to survive? Perhaps. If I worked at it, I bet I could come up with some sort of deal that lets me stay in town at least a big chunk of the year. That might be a possibility sooner than later.

I like the Chicago area because there’s a significant chunk of population within 100 miles in all directions except east. But I can drive around Lake Michigan, and work in places like St. Joseph, MI and Michigan City, IN and all kinds of other little towns that keep me busy most of the year.

If I really focused on that 100 mile radius, I think I could do fine and still sleep in my own bed every night. Would that be a career? Not really. It would be steady work, and a job. That’s what I’ve been doing all these years, and it’s been all I could handle to squeak out a living that long.

Tonight I did a show in Ottawa, IL that was less than thrilling quite honestly. I was heckled by the sound guy of all people, and he had a mic and could talk back. People were walking back and forth in front of me during the show, and there wasn’t any stage. I had to stand on a dance floor.

The pay wasn’t great, but I was off on a Friday and it was exactly 86 miles from my front door. I gave them my best, got my check, and drove home. It wasn’t fulfilling, but it wasn’t an all day drive either. It will pay a bill or two while I keep working on my transition to being a humorist.

What I did tonight was a comedian gig. The people weren’t mean, and in fact the lady who was in charge was very friendly. But there wasn’t a lot of respect there whether they realized it or not, and it made my job far more difficult than it needed to be. For any money, it just wasn’t worth it.

I realize I could have turned this down, but I like to perform and since it was within the golden circle I said I’d do it. My policy has always been I would much rather work for low pay than not have a gig at all. I think I have to reassess that policy, and start to turn things down on occasion.

I’ve always been told the most powerful word in show business (and in life) is “no”. The more one can afford to say no, the more opportunities one is likely to get. When it’s possible to choose when and where one works, a whole new (and infinitely better) world emerges. That’s my goal.

I can’t picture a humorist having to do a gig like tonight. For one, a humorist would have been paid a lot more. When a buyer has to pay more, there’s immediately more respect before a show even starts. The performer has an opportunity to have a say over conditions, and it all runs well.

A comedian gets thrown into the fire, but nobody cares because it didn’t cost a lot of money. It never occurs to the buyer that seemingly little things like lights and sound really do matter, as do others like a proper introduction and getting the audience focused and attentive before the show.

Tonight everything was wrong. The audience was standing around in groups talking when I got there, and someone went on the microphone and started reading an introduction before they were seated. Nobody was listening, and I had to start out in a hole while they found their seats. Brutal.

There was no stage or stage lighting, and there was a DJ sitting at a table right behind me who talked to me through most of the show. At one point – right in the middle of a bit that needed the audience’s full attention – a song started playing for no reason. He had hit a button and started it by mistake. It totally ruined a very delicate moment, and when I glared at him he just laughed.

I did get some laughs out of the audience, but it was a whole lot harder than it needed to be. It took all of my years of experience to pull this one off, and halfway through I realized that it was a mistake to have said yes to this. For the few bucks I made, it was anything but ‘easy money’.

It was fast money in that I got paid tonight, but it took thirty years to be able to manage what I did under such unprofessional conditions. Would a top entertainer in any field perform like this? No. I did because I wanted to get paid. In the long run, I cheated myself. I’m far better than this.

No offense to anyone in the group tonight. They weren’t bad people, and in fact I received a lot of nice compliments after the show. But this isn’t what I need to be doing this late into the game. I am very good at what I do, and underselling my product like this is beneath what I have earned.

I picture myself performing at the top venues in the world, with full houses there to enjoy what I do. I can give world class shows, but not under the circumstances I had to face tonight. It was a wake up call, and I get the message loud and clear. From now on, I have to be careful when I say yes and shouldn’t accept a blind booking just anywhere. I’ve worked too hard for too long to get thrown scraps. If I don’t say no, they’ll keep coming. Close to home or not, this was a mistake.

Any time I can stay within 100 miles of Chicago and get paid, I consider it a victory. That's the 'Golden Circle'.

Any time I can stay within 100 miles of Chicago and get paid, I consider it a victory. That’s the ‘Golden Circle’.

A Lion’s Share

February 6, 2014

Saturday February 1st, 2014 – Kalida, OH

Last week I was in Woodburn, IN. Tonight it was Kalida, OH. Three weeks ago I’d never even heard of either of those towns, and I was pretty good in geography class in my day. These are not places I ever intended to go, but after being there I’m glad I went. The laughter made it worth it.

It didn’t hurt that there was a paycheck involved either. Both these shows were fundraisers for worthy causes, and at the end of each night everyone was a winner. I’d do shows like these every single night of the year if they’d let me, but it’s not that easy. There’s a lot behind the scenes that needs to get done before any show can happen, and the last two weeks it was all done correctly.

Tonight we did a fundraiser for the Lions Club of Kalida. Apparently they’ve been doing them for ten years, and have been using comedians the whole time. I don’t know how they’d found out about Tim Walkoe, but I’m glad they did. Tim asked me to do it with him, and it made for one of the strongest lineups I can think of for any show. We’re both solid headliners, and we kicked ass.

The people in charge knew it too, and they were beside themselves with delight after the show. I knew we’d deliver, and they said it was the best show they’d ever had. Of course it was, but we both sacrificed decades of our lives to get to the point of being able to do it. They got a bargain at whatever price they paid, as getting one much less two acts like us in one night was a super buy.

Tim and I talked about it on the way back to the hotel. Not many acts of any sort would be able to pull off a red hot show like this no matter what they’re called. Most ‘comedians’ would be far too dirty, and most ‘humorists’ wouldn’t be able to get consistent laughs all evening like we did.

We both knew exactly what to do, as we’ve been at it for so long. This was a diverse group and not an easy read. There were ages ranging from 20s to 70s, and it takes a seasoned pro to pull off a show that makes them all laugh. Everyone might not get every single joke, but at the end of the night everyone had a great time. Nobody knew how much work went into it, and nobody cared.

It wasn’t their job to care. All they had to do was show up and have fun – and they did. It was a super deal with a dinner/show package that featured an all-you-can-eat steak dinner plus as much beer as you could drink. Normally that would be a giant red flag, but it ended up working well.

There weren’t any issues with drunken heckling, and in fact they were an excellent audience. It was a pleasure to perform for such a well behaved and attentive crowd, and they were all there to support the cause and laugh. Whatever the people who ran it did, they hit it all right on the head.

They got the word out with the town and surrounding areas, and I didn’t see an open seat in the whole place. I’d estimate there were probably 400 people in the Lions Club, and they brought in a very good sound system too. We had the tools we needed, and we knew what to do with them.

This was a home run from every angle. I have to believe there are groups like this in thousands of towns like this I’ve never heard of – and many more that I have. Getting people to set them up as well as this one was and last week in Woodburn, IN is a different story. They all did their jobs and it made ours easy. It isn’t like this every week, but for the last two it’s been comedy heaven.

I had never heard of Kalida, OH before last night. I'm glad I did. What nice people live there.

I had never heard of Kalida, OH before last night. I’m glad I did. What nice people live there.

Tim Walkoe and I did a comedy fundraiser for a packed house. It benefitted the local Lion's Club.

Tim Walkoe and I did a comedy fundraiser for a packed house. It benefited their local Lions Club.

Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter

January 14, 2014

Sunday January 12th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve been busy like a worker bee getting my new and improved monthly email newsletter ready to send out, and learned today it’s not going to be completely ready by tomorrow which had been the original target deadline date. I’m not disappointed at all, and in fact I’m feeling really good.

The advantage I had going in is that NOBODY is expecting it, and it won’t upset anybody. The only ones that knew the deadline even existed were my pit crew Eric and me. We have both done our jobs like we said we would, and it’s almost ready to go. We fully expected to have glitches.

I’m working on the content side, and Eric is dealing with the nuts and bolts of getting all of the technical aspects handled. He set up an account on a website that will let us send it to up to 2500 people, and we’ve both been working on sorting the email address list into distinct categories.

This is going to be a huge project, and a continuous work in progress. We’re both up for it and know what it entails – or at least we think we do. There will constantly be names being added to the list, and others will fall off. We hope to be able to grow each month but we need to start first.

Eric has about 1500-2000 email addresses to load into the system, but that total is deceiving. A significant number will probably bounce back, as I haven’t contacted them for a while. Many of the others are personal friends or other performers. It’s nice to say hello every month, but they’re not going to book me. I know that going in, and I’m not getting cocky about having a large list.

The long term plan is to collect fans everywhere I go, and keep them aware of when I might be back. There are places like the three Zanies Comedy Clubs in the Chicago area or Donnie B’s in Springfield, IL and several others where I perform regularly. I want to become a legitimate draw.

99.999% of comedians would not have dreamed of doing this years ago, but this isn’t years ago and I’m not a comedian anymore – at least not in my marketing strategy. I’m a HUMORIST, and humorists get paid a whole lot more to basically do what a comedian does. It’s about perception.

Humorists also have a ton of products for sale. Dave Barry has a library of books, as do people like Lewis Grizzard, Erma Bombeck, Al Franken and several others. George Carlin wrote books toward the end of his career, and Woody Allen wrote them at the beginning. I need at least one.

Building a list is the smart way to go, and worth all the time and effort we’re investing now as we breathe life into it from absolute zero. I went over to Eric’s house tonight and we plugged the content I wrote into the template we chose, and of course there were glitches with the actual text.

It didn’t line up correctly, and wasn’t pleasant to look at. It had poor eye appeal. It had nothing to do with content, but we still have to deal with it. Eric will figure it out, and that’s why we’re a team. I am not good with those types of things and I know it. He’ll get it fixed and we’ll send it.

But that’s just the beginning. We’ll need to keep cranking it out month after month to more and more people and that will go on perpetually. I’m calling it “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” after the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. If you’d like to get it, send your email address.

'Humorists' are revered and get paid big bucks. 'Comedians' tell dirty jokes in saloons. That's the perception - at least with those who pay to hire performers. I'm a humorist, thank you.

‘Humorists’ are revered and get paid big bucks. ‘Comedians’ tell dirty jokes in saloons. That’s the perception – at least with those who pay to hire performers. I’m a humorist, thank you.

My monthly "Maxwell's Silver Humor Newsletter" is about ready to launch.  If you want to receive it, send me your email address.

My monthly “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” is about ready to launch. If you want to receive it, send me your email address.

Supposedly, women like a man with a sense of humor. I wonder if she thinks I'm funny?

Supposedly, women like a man with a sense of humor. I wonder if she thinks I’m funny?