Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Gleason’

Ripe For Harvest

November 15, 2012

Monday November 12th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I could use a day off, but who’s got time for that? There’s too much to do and too little time to do it. I feel like I need to do at least a little something every day even though I know I will never get to half of what I’d like to. Now it’s a matter of picking and choosing what’s truly important.

Even though I’ve made some tremendous strides in the past few months, I still have mountains of work in front of me and that can be overwhelming if I let it. The key is not to stare up at those mountains, but focus on the tasks at hand. That’s fine in theory, but sometimes it just gets tiring.

I toned it back for today, at least a little. I put some movies on in the background as I arranged and rearranged piles of paperwork I’d recently sorted from scattered sources. It’s a never ending process of shrinking piles and sorting things into categories and filtering out what I don’t need.

The pile I focused on most of the day was my lifetime accumulation of comedy ideas. If I have managed to do one thing correctly it’s been diligently keeping track of my ideas. I may not have kept them in the same place, but I did manage to keep them throughout all of my many moves.

They were randomly stored in different boxes for many years, and written on everything from torn out notebook pages to napkins to anything else I had around at the time – but at least I wrote my ideas down. Now, I’ve got a giant storehouse of fresh ‘new’ ideas I can use however I want.

It’s like I willed myself a valuable gift decades ago, and I’m just collecting it now. I’m looking over ideas I started cataloging in 1985, and most of it I don’t remember. I know it’s me as it’s in my handwriting, but it’s as if it came from someone else’s brain. I have a whole new perspective, and I know exactly what ideas I can use now. The seeds I planted then have matured for harvest.

It’ll take a while, but eventually I intend to compile what I can salvage into a book like George Carlin did with ‘Brain Droppings’. That was basically his accumulation of comedy notes put into book form, and there was such a glut remaining he was able to squeeze out two additional books.

I won’t compare myself to George Carlin, but if I could come up with one that would be a fine accomplishment. I think Jerry Seinfeld did a similar project, and Woody Allen wrote three books of essays in the ‘70s. Standup comedy alone is not the only way to stretch the creative muscles.

As I was sorting out my notes I watched all three ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ movies that were on one DVD. I’ve always loved the first one, as I find the Buford T. Justice sheriff character played by Jackie Gleason to be absolutely hilarious. To be able to go from Ralph Kramden to that guy is a real talent, and both characters still make me laugh today. I’d love to have one winner like that.

I don’t think I’d ever seen the sequels before, and they were both pretty painful. Even Jackie’s presence didn’t save either one, but it was still fun to watch how bad they were. I learned from it and still managed to get some work done so that’s a win in my book. Forward progress is always a good thing, but once in a while it’s nice to just lay back and relax a little. This was pretty close.


Working At Our Play

January 14, 2010

Tuesday January 12th, 2010 – Cary, IL

This ‘play’ stuff is anything but. We’ve worked harder as a group on this one project for no guaranteed return than just about anything else I can ever remember doing. This isn’t a play, this is a WORK – and lots of it. I’m learning a lot and having fun, but it’s an effort.

Even though we’re all basically doing bits from our comedy acts, they’ve been divided up into chunks and spread out over the show in the form of characters which we each are working to bring to life. We’ve all done our material as standup comedy. This is different.

Since we’re doing a show about talk radio, the characters we are playing will either be a live in studio guest with Jerry, or a caller. Each of us is playing several characters and it’s a real challenge to define each one clearly with just a jacket, wig, hat or some sunglasses.

We’ve been gradually putting it all together, and everyone sees the mammoth effort that it has taken to get even this far. We haven’t even done our first real show yet and we have already updated and rewritten and improved the whole show countless times. We improve and upgrade something absolutely every time we get together, and nobody thinks it sucks.

We’re all professional entertainers and have been on stage or in front of a live mike for a lifetime. We won’t freeze up and draw a total blank, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be blowing lines and/or forgetting cues. That’s why we’re working so hard to get it smooth.

Vicki Quade has been a real help in guiding us in a theatrical direction. She has a lot of experience in not only putting plays together, but getting them up and running in theaters. I really don’t think we could have gotten close to this far without her, and everyone in the group knows it. This truly has been a group effort and everyone involved has had a part.

We went through another rehearsal at Jerry’s house today, but mostly it was about what each of us was wearing for each scene and where we’d be standing on stage. We did run a few scenes, but not the actual dialogue from top to bottom. We only did a few transitions.

I for one am absolutely sick of my lines by now. I’ll be fine once an audience is there to hear them, but reciting them to each other is a complete drag. I like to be fresh and wing it whenever I can, but the other guys are much more regimented. I have to be very respectful of that, and I try to be even though it’s torture for me. This is a team effort, not my show.

I’ve always read where Jackie Gleason never liked to rehearse for “The Honeymooners“ and just went out and riffed it. He’d apparently drive the rest of the crew nuts, and I never wanted to do that even though I do enjoy working fresh and completely in the moment.

If nothing else, one thing I do have is a new perspective on just how difficult this whole entertainment thing is, at least to pull off correctly. Standup is supposed to be the hardest, but all of us are experienced in it so we can handle that. Doing this play was hard, but we all rolled up our sleeves and put in our time. I sure hope the audience likes it. We’ll see.