Posts Tagged ‘James Wesley Jackson’

Super Soup

February 20, 2014

Tuesday February 18th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Not everyone gets an opportunity to look back over the body of work of their entire lives at the very end and sort out all the memories. The stereotypical picture is the old geezer on a death bed surrounded by family, making a final statement before peacefully drifting off into the next world.

I wonder what the percentage is of people that actually have it happen like that. My grandfather probably came the closest of anyone I’ve experienced. He died in hospice care, and I got to have several visits with him in his final days. It was awkward in many ways, and not pleasant at all.

He fought death tooth and nail to the bitter end, and bitter it was. Cancer attacked him brutally, but he hung in there and never gave up. He even went as far as volunteering for an experimental form of chemotherapy so that the doctors could tweak the dosage for future patients. That’s very ballsy in my opinion, and downright heroic. Gramps wouldn’t quit, but cancer wins in the end.

I remember trying to get his mind off his painful condition, and I asked him what his favorite memories were in his life, and it surprised me that he had to stop and think for a bit. I don’t even remember what he said, but the fact he had to think about it was a red flag – at least it was to me.

I have quite a few memories I wouldn’t mind sending off to my personal recycle bin, but those that I cherish are right up there at the top. I don’t have to wait until I’m on any death bed to haul them out and feel good. One that jumps to mind immediately is being on stage when everything is going well. If there’s a feeling of more pure delight and excitement than that I’m yet to feel it.

Another prime source of pleasant memories is time spent hanging out with other comedians. It may seem overrated to place it that high on a life list, but I know I’m not the only one to feel that way. There is just something magical about being in that fraternal mindset with people that have shared the experience of living a gypsy lifestyle and making audiences laugh. It’s a tight group.

Often meetings are held in some roadside grease trap diner, but today I had one at Bill Gorgo’s house. Bill is not only a terrific comedian, he’s as good or better in the kitchen. He co-authored a cook book not long ago, and anytime he invites comedians over for food – we all know to GO.

I first got to experience Bill’s mastery as part of the “Chicago Style Standups” group. That was several years ago now, and coincidentally the time I started writing my daily diary. We needed to have content on the group’s website, and I volunteered to write about my personal life’s exploits.

The group has long disbanded – at least my involvement in it, but we loved the camaraderie of those meetings so Bill will call one on occasion just because. The traditional fare was always his world class soups, and I don’t think he ever repeated one. It was the best soup we’d all ever had.

I had a lot of other things I could and probably should have done today, but when Bill calls for a soup session I know better than to miss it. Jimmy McHugh knows it too, and he showed up like I did. Dan Morris was a first timer, and he loved it too. James Wesley Jackson was scheduled for an appearance, but had to back out. Magician Dennis DeBondt was invited, but he got booked at the last minute. The rest of us had a blast, and made another memory that will only get sweeter.

Comedian Bill Gorgo 'cook's on stage, but he's even better in the kitchen.

Comedian Bill Gorgo ‘cooks’ on stage, but he’s even better in the kitchen.

He's the co-author of the successful cook book "Life Beyond Takeout!"

He’s the co-author of the successful cook book “Life Beyond Takeout!”

When one's ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill's delicious homemade soups make Campbell's taste like raw sewage.

When one’s ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill’s delicious homemade soups make Campbell’s taste like raw sewage.

Braving The Elements

January 27, 2014

Saturday January 25th, 2014 – Woodburn, IN

Comedy work has been flowing very nicely of late, and January has been an excellent month. I love to stay busy, but it always ends up being part of a cycle. Right now I’m riding the wave on a hot streak, and life is peachy. Then it will be slow again, and then heat back up. That’s how it is.

I would absolutely work every night if I could – seven nights a week each and every week – but that’s a tall order. The performing part is that much fun, but unfortunately that isn’t everything to have to think about. Booking actual dates and dealing with travel become a full time occupation.

Tonight was the last of a manufactured three night run and I was booked with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez for a volunteer fire department fundraiser in a small town near Ft. Wayne, IN called Woodburn. That might not sound very exciting, but these kinds of shows can be electric.

Electricity became an important theme all day, as there was a power outage in the town and we weren’t sure if there would be a show or not. Jimmy and I were booked together in Frankfort, IL last night, so he chose me to be part of this fundraiser to make travel easier. We drove together.

Weather can obviously be an issue this time of year, and we knew that. We expect that driving can cause grief, but we weren’t expecting a power outage. Jimmy called around noon to check on the snow conditions, and was told they weren’t sure if they could get power back in time to do a show. They were worried on their end because they’d sold out and didn’t want to give refunds.

We heard back by mid afternoon they could get an emergency generator, but we were keeping our eye on the weather as well and knew we had some rough conditions for driving. It’s not that far from Frankfort, IL to Fort Wayne, IN with ideal conditions, but in the snow all bets are off.

The drive was unpleasantly tense most of the way as we went through everything from slush to sunshine to snowfall and everything in between. It was way more stress than Jimmy or I wanted, but that’s part of the game. Nobody gets to choose when the stress arrives, it’s always random.

Patti was about an hour behind us, as she had a show in Marinette, WI last night and didn’t get home until 4:30am. Jimmy was concerned she wouldn’t make it, and we would have to cover her time. We could have easily done it, but he promised three acts and didn’t want to fail to deliver.

She ended up making it about an hour before the show, and the three of us were frazzled as we drove to Woodburn from our hotel in the Ft. Wayne area. The shows themselves aren’t stressful, but getting there often is. We’d all had all we could stand all day, but we also had a show to do.

The generator was working fine, and there was a jam packed house ready to forget about power outages and bad weather and have some laughs. We gave them exactly that, and they couldn’t be a better audience if they tried. As stressful as it was to get there, they made it worth the trouble.

Jimmy really works hard booking these shows with his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” fundraiser concept. Last year he was here with Mike Preston and James Wesley Jackson, and they rocked as well by all accounts. He’s always looking for new business – http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser comedy shows anywhere that needs to raise them. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser standup comedy shows anywhere and everywhere that needs to raise them. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

Tonight it was in Woodburn, IN with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

Tonight it was at a fire station in Woodburn, IN along with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

The show was really fun, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to show business.

The show was really fun as usual, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to real world show business.

Bigger Circles

January 15, 2014

Tuesday January 14th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

Life truly is all about the vibe one puts out, and when that vibe changes – good or bad – there is an equal and opposite reaction from the universe. It’s law, and there’s nothing anybody could do even if they wanted to. My vibe has significantly changed for the better, and I am feeling results.

New people are streaming into my life, and it’s not by accident. I’m attracting them because of my change in vibe. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I stay in this mode, and I’m hoping that will be for the rest of my life. It took a lifetime to get this far, so I want to make the most of it.

One recent example of this was hooking up with Dave Schwensen. I’d had contact with him on previous occasions via email and phone, but now he’s moving to Chicago and I know we will be crossing paths in similar circles. He’ll be teaching his own comedy classes, but he’s been at it for years and is very well connected with the Improv Comedy Club chain. I’ve never worked there.

I can feel that somehow my name will get out in a positive way, and at some point I’ll have the chance to work some Improvs around the country. Maybe we’ll teach classes or put together our own convention or something. Whatever the case, after all these years we are finally connecting.

The speaking game is another area where I sense valuable connections coming my way. I have been friends with Todd Hunt for years, and he’s excellent. He’s as good as any speaker I’ve ever heard, and his marketing is stellar. I have learned a lot from him. http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

There are fees paid to speakers that comedians only dream of. It’s a different game completely, and stakes are MUCH higher. Todd’s regular fee is significantly higher than the most I have ever made in one night as a comedian – which unfortunately wouldn’t make Donald Trump jealous.

Well, I’ve crossed paths with some of the very top income generators in the speaking business from Dale Irvin to Larry Winget, and I’m studying how they’ve put together their business plan. Mikki Williams is another top name in that arena, and she called me on the phone yesterday and went over some ideas of how I can make a name in that market. I’m crossing paths with the best.

Mikki is very highly respected in the speaking world, and has the most elaborate newsletter of anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s called “Hair She Is” because she has a lot of hair, and that’s what she uses as her trademark. She commands top dollar whenever she speaks. http://www.mikkiwilliams.com.

Tonight Eric Feinendegen and I met with Jean MacDonald, a speaker who is one of THE most connected people I’ve ever met. She knows everyone in the Chicago business world, and offered to help spread my name around. She and Eric are both Toastmasters, and they took my class last summer at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. They loved it, and now we’re working together.

It’s all about connections, and I’m starting to get some great ones. I want to be one too, and I’ll gladly help people in return. I’m feeling a whole new group of quality people around me but I’m not abandoning the good people I already know. On the contrary, I want to reconnect with all of them too. James Wesley Jackson “The Enviromeian” is an example. I want to promote the DVD I produced for him, and that’s on the agenda for this year too. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

My friend Todd Hunt is one of the best speakers in the business. www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

My friend Todd Hunt is one of the best speakers in the business. http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

Mikki Williams has THE most in depth newsletter I've ever seen. Hands down, she sets the standard. www.mikkiwilliams.

Mikki Williams has THE most in depth newsletter I’ve ever seen. Hands down, she sets the standard. http://www.mikkiwilliams.

Jean MacDonald is one of the most connected people anywhere. She's also a speaker and author. www.jeanconnects.com.

Jean MacDonald is one of the most connected people in Chicago – or anywhere else. She’s also a successful speaker and author of two books. http://www.jeanconnects.com.

I don't want to forget about James Wesley Jackson "The Enviromedian". I produced his new DVD and he's a wonderful person to boot. www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

I don’t want to forget about James Wesley Jackson “The Enviromedian”. I produced his hilarious new DVD and he’s a wonderful person to boot. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The Doctor Calls!

November 25, 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a lot to surprise me anymore, but once in a while something happens that does raise my eyebrows. This morning I received a phone call completely out of the blue from Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton! Had I been asked to predict something freakish that might happen today I highly doubt that would be in my top 1000 guesses. It was a pleasant surprise, but unexpected.

Actually it has happened before, and I didn’t expect that either. The band was on the way to do a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2011, and they stopped at the Lake Forest Tollway Oasis on I-94 and George’s manager Carlon Scott saw me listed in the Lake County Visitor’s Guide.

I’ve been a member of Visit Lake County for several years, and it comes with a listing in their annual guide of businesses, attractions and events in Lake County. Carlon happened to pick up a copy and saw my name, and called to say hello. That’s proof positive that advertising does work.

I had just gotten out of the hospital from my diabetes debacle a couple of days before, and was feeling pretty weak. I almost didn’t answer the phone, but I’m thrilled I did. When I told Carlon I had just gotten out of the hospital, she had George call me back a few minutes later. He had been in the hospital around the same time, and was just out himself. He wanted to call to cheer me up.

He certainly did. How many times does anyone get to have an all time personal hero call out of the blue? It’s kind of like a famous athlete visiting a sick kid in the hospital only better. I’m a big fan, but he treated me like a peer. He asked how my shows were going and I asked all about his.

The reason he was calling today was to ask if I knew how to get in touch with artist Pedro Bell. Pedro did quite a few legendary album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s, and happens to be from Chicago. I tracked him down years ago and he did two CD covers for me, and the DVD cover for James Wesley Jackson. It cost me a chunk of change, but I had it at the time and I’m glad I did it.

Not only did I get every penny of my money’s worth, I got to know Pedro through the process and now consider him a friend. He’s a very talented artist, but also a down to earth person. I was very much in awe at first, but he could see I knew of his work so he opened up and we hit it off.

George is coming out with a new project, and wanted to track down Pedro to do some artwork. He knew that I had hired him recently, so he wanted to reconnect. I told him Pedro has been sick lately, and in fact James Wesley Jackson and I had discussed doing some kind of benefit show.

George asked me to keep him posted on the benefit, and I certainly will. James and Pedro have been friends for years, and when I suggested some kind of benefit I knew James would jump on board immediately. With all the other projects I’ve got going now, it has forced me to put that on the back burner for much too long along with James’s DVD. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Hopefully this will set everything in positive forward motion again. As George said on a record years ago “Funk not only moves…it can re-move. Dig?” I’d love to be involved in anything I can do to help Pedro and work with James, but if George happens to be involved it would be a dream come true. If you need a dose of the funk, the real Mothership flies at http://www.georgeclinton.com.

George 'Dr. Funkenstein' Clinton has my number.

George ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ Clinton has my number.

Pedro Bell aka 'Captain Draw'. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

Pedro Bell aka ‘Captain Draw’. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

This is a  bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for "Hard Luck Jollies'.

This is a bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for “Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson's new DVD. It's available at www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Here’s the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson’s new DVD. It’s available at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The first cover Pedro did for me was 'Hard Luck Jollies'.

The first cover Pedro did for me was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the original Funkadelic album 'Hardcore Jollies'.

Here’s the original Funkadelic album ‘Hardcore Jollies’.

My next CD will be 'Comedy Skeletons In The Closet'.

My next CD will be ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’.

Here's the original it was based on - 1986's 'R&B Skeletons In The Closet'.

Here’s the original it was based on – 1986’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’.

Five Funny Friends

September 27, 2013

Thursday September 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Oh, to have even a teaspoon of power and influence in this out of control tilt-a-whirl known as the entertainment business. I don’t want it so much for me, but to be able to showcase as many of my talented friends and colleagues as possible. That would give me as big of a kick as if I did it.

That’s one of the reasons I was such a rabid fan of Johnny Carson – or at least his position. His show was a launching pad for a lot of acts, but especially comedians. He seemed to enjoy putting people on and letting the public discover their talent, and I would love to be able to do it as well.

On a far smaller scale, any time I’ve had radio shows I have always tried to put as many of my talented friends as I could on the air. I love to be able to let them shine and have their moment in the sun, and I have always been secure enough in my own skin to not have to always be the star.

I talked to my friend Dwight York yesterday, and he’s a shining example of exactly what I am talking about. Dwight is one of my absolute favorite comedians ever, and a super guy to boot. It boggles my mind why he isn’t a big star, and if had even a little influence he’d be one tomorrow.

He’s delightfully sick and twisted, and an absolutely brilliant joke writer. He has a book called “The Vile File” which is a catalog of his best work, and he has a hilarious CD as well. Dwight is also one of the hardest workers around, yet he doesn’t seem to get his due. I don’t understand it.

Check him out and see if you don’t agree he’s fantastic. His website is http://www.dwightyork.com, and if you get a minute send him an email and tell him I told you to say hello. You’ll be a fan for life like I am, and make it a point to see him whenever you can. He never fails to make me laugh.

Another guy I’m in awe of is Don Reese. Don is another dark and twisted hombre, and I mean that in a very positive way. He loves monster movies, and looks like he could star in one. I have always wanted to book a tour with Dwight, Don and another comic named Dan Still. I wanted to call them “The Pirates of Comedy”, and I know they could develop a rabid following all over.

Don’s website is http://www.donreese.com and his DVD “It Came From Iowa” is a must have. He’s like the typical bad guy pro wrestler – scary in the ring, but a teddy bear in real life. Dwight and Don are both sweethearts, as is Dan Still. Put them on a comedy stage, and it’s a different story.

Dan’s website is http://www.danstill.com, and his CD is called “Anger Therapy”. All three of those guys get their ya-yas out on stage, and then off stage they’re mild mannered and sweet. I would LOVE to be their manager and build their brand, but who has time? I’ve got my own problems.

Of course there’s my friend “The Enviromedian” James Wesley Jackson. I’m still trying to get his new DVD noticed, and you can find him at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com. He’s someone else I think deserves to get some time in the sun. James has paid his dues, and deserves a payday.

Then there’s my good friend Jimmy McHugh and his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” concept. He is another guy who deserves a break. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. I can think of a lot more, but for now I’ll leave it at this. Please seek out and support these people. They’re ALL tremendous!

Dwight York - his book 'The Vile File' is laugh out loud funny!

Dwight York – his book ‘The Vile File’ is laugh out loud funny!

Don Reese - "It Came From Iowa" is a must own DVD.

Don Reese – “It Came From Iowa” is a must own DVD.

Dan Still looks like 'The Undertaker' - or is it the other way around? www.danstill.com.

Dan Still looks like ‘The Undertaker’ – or is it the other way around? http://www.danstill.com.

What's an Enviromedian? Find out at www.jameswesleyjackson.com

What’s an Enviromedian? Find out at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com

Jimmy McHugh - head Chicago Comedy All Star. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Jimmy McHugh – head Chicago Comedy All Star. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Like Bert Campaneris

September 9, 2013

Sunday September 8th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   On this date in 1965, Kansas City Athletics shortstop Bert Campaneris became the first player in Major League Baseball history to play all nine positions in a single game. That’s a remarkable feat, but what made it even more amazing was that when he pitched he threw ambidextrously.

   Apparently he threw right handed to the right handed batters and left handed to the lefties. I’ve never heard of that before or since, and I always wondered why. As a kid, I tried throwing a ball with both hands but no matter how much I practiced, I couldn’t make it work. I’m a total lefty.

   A few players have done it since but only a few, like three or four. Bert Campaneris did it first, and has bragging rights for life. I don’t know who really cares all these years later, but I’ll bet his grandchildren have heard that story more times than they can count. They’re probably sick of it.

   I first read of this feat on the back of a baseball card when I was a kid, and it has always been a fascinating trivia tidbit. Once in a while if I’m with some fellow sports nut friends I’ll whip it out and more often than not it mystifies everyone. I should have something better to do, but I don’t.

   The reason I bring it up at all is that I feel a lot like Bert Campaneris with all the miscellaneous projects I’ve got going these days. I’m wearing a lot of hats, and am all over the field trying to be all things to all people. I know that’s a recipe for disaster as a rule, but I’m sure having fun at it.

   So far this year alone I’ve been a headlining comedian, hosted shows, done a storytelling show, been a radio talk show host on two stations, taught comedy classes in three places, did a one man show in Milwaukee that set attendance records and brought the King of Uranus character to life.

   Oh yes, I also finally finished production on the DVD project for James Wesley Jackson ‘The Enviromdian’ and arranged to get his website up and running at www.jameswesleyjackson.com. That took a lot longer than I thought, but I guess a lot of the other things did too. But I did them.

   Bert Campaneris didn’t set any significant baseball records during this particular game, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. He showed enough proficiency at each position to at least play it for a single inning in a Major League game. There aren’t many who can play even one position.

   So what did this stunt do for him? Not much actually. He went on to a long and above average career, and ended up being an all star six times out of his nineteen years playing. That must have netted him a nice pension, and he’s still alive at 71 to spend it. He lives in Scottsdale, AZ where he conducts baseball camps, and participates in Old-Timers games around the country. Not bad.

   It sounds like he has a pretty good life. That’s all I ever wanted as well. I bet Bert Campaneris doesn’t have to worry about paying his bills every month. He is still known for a gimmick he did in 1965, but he eventually settled in and had a solid career as a shortstop. I want to settle in also.

   I’m not embarrassing myself with all these projects, but I’m not able to do them as thoroughly as they probably need to be done either. Like Bert Campaneris, I need to settle into one position.

All nine positions in one game. Pretty impressive!

All nine positions in one game. Pretty impressive!

Weak End Weekend

September 2, 2013

Saturday August 31st, 2013 – Homewood, IL

   This is not a great weekend for comedy, so I arranged a couple of door deal shows to hopefully make the most of the situation. Everyone has to be more entrepreneurial these days, but that’s no guarantee even one paid customer will show up. Making a living performing is harder than ever.

   Not only does one have to have an act worth booking, part of the game is now running events at least from time to time. I’ve never enjoyed that part of it, but there’s little choice if one wants to stay in the game. There are 52 weeks to fill every year, and that’s getting harder all the time.

   It’s a combination of everything from gas prices soaring to too many bad acts bastardizing the business and clogging the toilet, but the entertainer of today needs to develop a whole new set of skills to survive in the ever changing economic jungle. Things just aren’t what they used to be.  

   It’s not just for comedians either. My friend Dave Rudolf is a musician and he’s facing exactly the same situation. He’s always been one to stay working regularly, traditional or nontraditional venues included. Whatever it takes to pay the bills, he does. I respect that, and can totally relate.

   Tonight Dave booked me in Homewood, IL at a venue called ‘The Twisted Q’. It was formerly a bakery, but is now a barbecue joint that has a stage with live music of all kinds. Dave asked if I would like to try a comedy night, and I said I would. It was a roll of the dice, and everyone lost.

   This was just not the right week to be trying indoor live shows. Last night in Libertyville was a sparse turnout and tonight’s was even sparser. The people who did show up had a great time both nights, but there weren’t enough of them to make it financially viable. All our wallets took a hit.

   I was really disappointed, because everyone involved all weekend are people I like and respect. This was the cream of the crop as far as nice people go, and I hate to see nice people take it in the shorts. Unfortunately, those are the ones that seem to do it most. We took a risk, and got burned.

   Dave and I had an agreement that this was a door deal, and we knew from the start this wasn’t a stellar weekend. Still, when it actually happens that there’s a small house it’s a kick in the balls of the heart and hard not to take it personally. It’s even harder to get up for performing for such a small audience, but that was part of the agreement too. My whole time on stage, I felt like crying.

   James Wesley Jackson was there too, and he did a splendid job as he always does. He is one of the nicest human beings walking the planet, and always has a positive attitude about everything. If there was ever a night I needed that, it was tonight. James and Dave are two favorites onstage and off, and if nothing else I wanted the joint full to support them. But it wasn’t. What a letdown.

   Also on the show was former student Joe Nuccio and eleven year old Trevor Burke whose dad Joe took my class many years ago. Again, these are all high quality individuals who came out to support. I felt really bad there was such a small house, but that’s how it is in this fickle business. It all boils down to the ability to put butts in seats, and that’s a puzzle I am still trying to solve.

Summer Synergy

July 10, 2013

Monday July 8th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   The dreaded slowness of summer isn’t turning out to be as bad as I thought. I’ve been getting a lot of calls for shows, classes and even some inquiries for corporate speaking engagements. I was getting a bit stressed there for a bit, but it seems to be much better now. It always goes in cycles.

   With the crazy way the business not to mention the whole world is changing, it’s even more of a challenge to stay on top of things than it ever has been – and it wasn’t easy before. There are so many details to keep track of, it’s easy to lose hold of them all and become totally overwhelmed. 

   I thankfully got a call from Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago to host both Rising Star Showcases this month. They’re traditionally the first two Mondays of each month, and the call couldn’t have come at a better time. It will help me get through the summer drought, plus I enjoy doing them.  

   Since I was going into Chicago anyway, I arranged a long overdue meeting with James Wesley Jackson to discuss the DVD project that’s been sitting for far too long. This is what I’m referring to when I talk about things falling through the cracks, and it’s time to get this project in motion.

   James deserves this and more, and I feel horrible it’s been on the shelf for so long. Life tends to have too many distractions, and it was totally unintentional. James has had the patience of a saint about it and then some, but now it’s getting to the point of being ridiculous. It’s time for action.

   I’ve said it before and I meant every word – James Wesley Jackson is one of the absolute most delightful human beings I have ever met both in comedy and out. Any comedian who has had the pleasure of working with him feels the same way. I’ve never heard a bad word about him EVER.

   He’s just a peaceful soul and a kind hearted human being – not to mention a really funny comic who happens to have a very unique style. James transcends boundaries much like Bill Cosby has for fifty years, and when you see him perform in person it’s virtually impossible not to like him.    

   We were fortunate to catch a red hot show on video, and I’m really proud of the product we’ve been able to put together. Mike Preston brought two cameras that particular evening, and it looks and sounds excellent.  Pedro Bell’s cover artwork is also very well done, and it’s ready for sale.

    I had money at the time we recorded it, but that’s all gone now. James wanted to do his part so he gave me some seed money to get things started. I am totally grateful and it came at the perfect time, but I was bound and determined to get it going anyway. I think we can sell some product.

    I plan to focus on getting James some positive attention within fans of Parliament/Funkadelic – and I’ve been one of those myself since the ‘70s. There are all kinds of them all over the world and I bet with my own money that more than a few will remember James and want to buy one.

    I could be completely wrong and have it blow up in my face, but even if that happens it’s a lot better than doing nothing. There’s a lot more to do including getting a press release written up to be included with inquiries to media outlets, and then we can see if I was correct with my guess.

   I really hope this project does well not only for James, but financially for us both. We have survived this long, so a little longer might not be convenient but we at least are finally “standing on the verge of getting it on.” That’s a P-Funk reference by the way. That’s where the most paying customers will come from, at least I think so. I think we can book some live shows as well.  

Once upon a time called NOW...the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

Once upon a time called NOW…the 21st Century Enviromedian is back!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The Peak Of Ripeness

June 22, 2013

Friday June 21st, 2013 – Niles, IL

   It’s the first day of summer, and once again I find another year slipping away. After today days start to get shorter again, so this is it – the prime day of the year. I’m not booked tonight, and I’m not thrilled about it in the least. I want to be out working as much as I can, and that’s every week.

   Nothing else makes me even close to happy. I’ve resigned myself to the icy fact that I’m never going to have that solid family relationship I have always wanted, but if I can’t have that the only other thing I’d ever want is a chance to be on stage entertaining people who are there to see me.

   I’ve been chasing that tricky rabbit longer than I think I should have, and I don’t feel any closer now than when I started. I have come untold light years as a performer, but nobody knows who I am so what good is it? I know I can go on stage and light up a room, but nobody powerful cares.

   Rodney Dangerfield had a great joke that said he quit show business and when he quit – he was the only one who KNEW he quit. That’s funny to anyone who isn’t living it. I feel like I’m there now myself, and I’m not laughing. I’m not even smiling. I’m panicking, and that’s never good.

   There are too many choices to make, and I have no idea which ones are correct. I’ve made a lot of stupid ones through the years, but even so I still paid my dues and developed my natural talent to the point it’s ripe and ready to pick. I’m at my peak just like today is the peak of the summer.

    I don’t want to waste any more time, as that peak ripeness won’t last forever. It will eventually get soft and rot, and the last thing I want is to be a rotten piece of fruit that fell off the tree. I have come way too far for that, so I decided to do something about it. I am not satisfied with this fate.

   In a perfect world, I’d be working six to seven nights a week in nice venues for audiences filled with my fans. I’d super serve those people, and give them my very best each night. I’d sign every autograph and pose for every picture after the show, and live the rest of my days brightening the days of as many others as humanly possible. I’ve got the ability, now I just need the opportunity.

   How the hell is that going to happen? I wish I knew. I read an interview with Lewis Black and he said he had resigned himself to the fact he’d never make it – and then he made it. I’m right at that point myself, and I don’t like it one bit. There’s no guarantee I’ll hit anything, and that rots.

   I can rattle off a dozen names of absolutely fantastic standup comedians that the public has no idea whatsoever who any of them are. Look these people up in no particular order and tell me if you don’t think they’re hilarious. I know they are, because they’ve paid their dues just like me.

   Here’s a list off the top of my head: Tim Cavanagh, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern, Dwight York, Don Reese, Jim McHugh, James Wesley Jackson, Beth Donahue, John McClellan, Danny Storts, Ross Bennett, Keith Stubbs, Todd Johnson, Auggie Smith, Bill Gorgo, Rick D’Elia, Wally Wang and now I’m going to get in trouble because I’ll leave someone out unintentionally. Suffice to say not everyone makes it.

   I’ve said it before, and I wish it weren’t true – talent does NOT assure anyone of career success in the entertainment business. In sports it may be different, but this isn’t sports. This is a business based on subjective opinions of many that have never once attempted to do themselves what they are allegedly experts at choosing. This has always been frightening and extremely disturbing, but I don’t see it ending any time soon. There are hoops that are to be jumped through, like it or not.

   I don’t like it and never have, but if I intend to change my current status I need to suck it up for at least a little while and get back out there. There are so many places other than comedy clubs to approach, and that’s where it gets tricky. Where do I go and who do I talk to? I haven’t been able to figure it out until now, so what leads me to believe I’ll do it now? I can’t, so I need some help.

   I had lunch with Marc Schultz today, and in his world he’s in a similar situation. Marc books a variety of entertainment acts and has for years. He inherited an agency from his father, and even though he’s not a comedy booker per se I have gotten a decent amount of work over the years.

   Marc and I are friends, and there aren’t many bookers I’d call a friend first. I genuinely like the guy, and even if he never booked me again I’d still hang out with him. That’s all fine, but we put our heads together today to see what we could come up with. His business isn’t what it was, but what business these days is? We can both use a little freshening up, so we came up with a plan.

   Most of Marc’s clients are corporate types. Most of them would never hire a standup comic but he’s going to approach the ones that might. He’s always been good about trying to include me on any sampler videos he sends, and I totally appreciate it. But I can do the job, and he realizes that.

   We also agreed that Marc is going to go after club work that I haven’t gone after, for a fee. I’m delighted to pay anybody to get me work I don’t have, so this is a no brainer. If he can land some decent work, I’m all over it. I don’t want to work the toilet circuit anymore, so these will be good clubs that will pay decent money. He’s not familiar with the club market, but he’s willing to try.

   This is not a long term fix, but in the short run it could be great for both of us. I won’t be stuck doing what I’ve never liked, and it’s always good to have a third party selling me rather than me stumbling and stammering and asking for work like a vagrant asks for change. I’ve never liked it.

   Steady work is what’s it’s about in any facet of show business. Period. I’d rather work steadily and make livable wage than be a big star one minute and a has been bum the next. I’m all about a steady career with regular income. I’ve come close many times, but I’ve never been able to make it last. There’s always been a radio job to come along and shake things up in a destructive way.

   I’m not foreseeing any radio in my immediate future. That ship has sailed – or sunk. What I am going to do is cross every T and dot every I and go after all the quality standup comedy work I’m able to get. It could be comedy clubs, cruise ships, colleges or corporate. I can handle just about anything at this point, but what I can’t handle is not working at all. That’s totally unacceptable.

   I look at comics from my generation of performers like Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan, and I want to be doing what they’re doing. How did they get it? I don’t know. I’m sure it was a lot of things. Talent is a part, but so is persistence, connections, luck and who knows what else? It’s complex.

   If I don’t get myself in front of someone, I’ll never have any chance to do anything. That’s not what I want to have as my final legacy, so at least Marc is going to be out there trying to mention my name to people who can book me in decent venues. Why haven’t we done this before now?

   Neither one of us has an answer. Marc was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. Now we’ve both run out of ‘things’, and this is a logical fit – at least for now. I’m going to dive into booking myself in as many quality places as I can. No more toilets. If I succeed, my life will change soon. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s just that where I’m doing it hasn’t gotten me seen.

What’s An Enviromedian?

May 28, 2013

Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

  Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.

   I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.

   I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk – even though nobody can figure out why.

   For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.

   Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.

   Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.

    I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.

   Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.

   Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.

   I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.

The Enviromedian is BACK!

The Enviromedian is BACK!

James Wesley Jackson

James Wesley Jackson