Posts Tagged ‘‘I Killed’’

Viva Ritch Shydner

March 12, 2014

Sunday March 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from the big meet up with my siblings yesterday, but I’m not going to make the mistake of assuming “it’s all better now”. It’s never going to be “all better”, but what we did yesterday was an enormous leap forward and I couldn’t be any more delighted. It was an event I won’t forget, and I hope it can be built on. I really did feel a positive vibe from every one of us.

All I can do is keep my end open, and the rest can decide if they want to continue. They all said they’d like to do it again, but who knows? Putting pressure on anyone is the last thing we need so I’m going to enjoy the moment we had, and let the healing vibes flow. There’s a whole lot to do.

After dinner last night it was early enough that I could still make it to the Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL to see the great Ritch Shydner perform. I wasn’t aware he was in town until late this week, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see him.

Ritch is a major favorite of mine on stage and off. He’s from the generation just before me, and was one of the first true headliners I saw when I was just starting. I watched him work a bunch of times, and he was always unbelievably gracious to sit around and talk after the show. He’s one of the nicest and funniest guys I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know anyone in comedy that won’t agree.

I didn’t expect Ritch to remember me from those very early days, but we crossed paths later on a book he co-authored with another great comedian named Mark Schiff called “I Killed”. It’s the compilation of road stories submitted by comedians of all levels from the Seinfelds and Lenos to road warriors like me. I’ve got a story in the book, and it’s actually quite a popular one at that.

I had always been big fans of both Mark and Ritch, and I got to know them both through being part of their book so it was a double score in my world. They’ve both been very supportive of me and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with one of my comedy heroes. I was still in a great mood from my meeting, and I made it to the club in plenty of time to catch his late show.

As I’ve come to expect, Ritch couldn’t have been any genuinely nicer or more supportive. He’s in the highest class of standup comedy royalty, and here he was treating me like a peer. That took my mood even higher, and I didn’t think that was possible. Days like this make life worth living.

We talked at length about how flat out difficult it is to be a comedian in general, and how as we age our needs sometimes change. Ritch has three kids, and agrees the road doesn’t come with the spirit of adventure it once did. He doesn’t have the same desire just as I don’t, and it was great to have someone to talk about it with that understood. He is one of few with the same perspective.

I really enjoyed watching him work, as his act has continued to evolve just as he has. He jokes about getting older and technology, and that’s the sign of a true comic and true artist. He keeps it fresh and growing. I laughed out loud several times, and it was a real treat to hang with a master.

He co-wrote and narrated a tremendous documentary called “I Am Comic” that is an absolute must see in my opinion. Ritch is one of the greats of the modern era, and I am delighted to have been able to meet him in person. Be sure and see him live if you can. http://www.ritchshydner.com.

Ritch Shydner is one of my all time favorite comedians, and also happens to be a very nice person off stage.

Ritch Shydner is one of my all time favorite comedians, and happens to also be a very nice person off stage.

He has appeared on Letterman and The Tonight Show with both Johnny AND Jay. Very impressive. www.ritchshydner.com

He has appeared on Letterman and The Tonight Show with both Johnny AND Jay. How impressive – and very well deserved. http://www.ritchshydner.com

He also co-wrote 'I Killed' - a book of comedians' road stories of which I have one.

He also co-wrote ‘I Killed’ – a book of comedians’ road stories of which I have one. People still ask me to sign their copy to this day.

He is also co-write and narrator of the documentary "I Am Comic" - a must see for fans and comics alike. I'm telling you, the man is impressive. I've been a fan for years.

He is also co-writer and narrator of the brilliant documentary “I Am Comic” – a must see for fans and comics alike. I’m telling you, the man is a Hall of Famer. I’ve been a fan for years, and I highly recommend you check him out.

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.