Posts Tagged ‘James Wesley Jackson’

Kings For A Night

October 29, 2012

Saturday October 27th, 2012 – Fond Du Lac, WI

   Some nights it feels like I’m almost there. This was one of them. I don’t know why every night can’t be like this, but it isn’t. That’s what makes this whole game so difficult. I can’t think of any other profession where the circumstances are so consistently different from one night to the next.

I’d much prefer a bit more stability, but nobody ever said that would be part of the deal. We are all trying to scrape together a living any way we can, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to do it with any kind of regularity. We need to take work when and where it comes, and that’s how it is.

More and more comedians have to be entrepreneurial and book our own shows. Whatever kind of ‘circuit’ there may have been at one time is now a hollow shell of what it was. Booking agents that used to have several quality weeks of work to offer are down to a few scattered random gigs.

Survival as an entertainer requires a lot more hustle these days than ever – and it required hustle before. There may have been more work and less competition in the past, but it still took work to rise above the pack that existed then. Now, there are a lot more people fighting hard for scraps.

Jimmy McHugh is doing the right thing by seeking out fundraisers for his Chicago Comedy All Stars group. He’s got a deep rich pool of experienced talent to choose from and he knows how to put together quality shows. I don’t ever remember there being a bad show whenever I’ve worked with him, and tonight was no exception. This audience got their money’s worth and then some.

Jimmy, James Wesley Jackson and I were in Fond Du Lac, WI tonight doing a fundraiser for a great cause called ‘Hallow-Ian’. Ian Lock is a high school kid in town who survived cancer a few years ago and is doing very well now. The fundraiser started with him, but was passed forward to others who need it and this is the third year. Any time I can be part of this kind of event I’ll do it.

The hosts of the show were Marty Schibbelhut from B 104.7 and an old comedy friend named Michael ‘Silk’ Casper who works at ‘The Great 98’ WMDC. Michael is a long time comedian of very high caliber, and worked the road for years. Like me, he dabbled in both radio and comedy but he had a family to raise and opted for ‘stability’. I don’t fault anyone for ever choosing that.

He was always very funny, and it was great to share the stage once again after many years. We were treated like rock stars, and couldn’t appreciate it more. Jimmy knows what he’s doing when he sets up these shows, and Michael came through because he’s been a comedian his whole life.

The show itself was a stone cold killer and then some. Jimmy and James are both easy to work with, and we’ve always gotten along very well on stage and off. James is one of the nicest human beings walking the planet, and he always has a calming effect on everyone. It was a super night.

The only thing wrong is that we don’t have a couple of these every week. If we did, life would be a whole lot easier. Next week it’s back to pounding the turf for work, and I for one don’t have any. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but that’s in the future. For tonight we were all rock stars.

As Good As It Gets

April 18, 2010

Saturday April 17th, 2010 – Hudson, MI

Two for two on the tour, but this one was special. Sometimes everything just works out right and rather than try to figure it out, the best thing to do is enjoy it. The entire evening was an overwhelming success, and all of us enjoyed it. We were in our element tonight.

All the stars aligned and for whatever reason the audience was into what we were doing and I could tell we were going to kick major ass from the first thirty seconds Jim McHugh was on stage to host the show. The vibe was in sync and when that happens, life is sweet.

We had the perfect show tonight. Jim McHugh was the host and James Wesley Jackson went on next. James is one of THE sweetest people I have ever met, and is always upbeat and positive. I have a special affinity for him because he used to open for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years and always has interesting inside memories to share.

I gave him a copy of my new CD and he was blown away by the Pedro Bell cover art on it. If anyone is hip to how cool that is, it’s James. He got it right away and really loves the fact I’m such a big fan of the group. James has always been one of my favorites. He’s just so easygoing and positive all the time. I can learn a lot from him in many ways, and I do.

Jim likes him too and books him whenever he can. The last time the three of us worked together was an Italian restaurant in Cincinnati and we blew the roof off that joint. It was a Christmas party as I remember, and they loved all three of us. It happened again tonight.

James has a very unique style on stage. It’s similar to a Steven Wright in that it’s clever one liners and short bits strung together. When it’s working, it’s a treat to watch. Tonight it was working perfectly, and it’s also a fantastic setup for me. James sits on a stool and is very deliberate and then I come up there and pound them with my machine gun delivery.

After the show people lined up to tell us how much they enjoyed us, and we all thanked them sincerely. The three of us have been around long enough to know when it’s good or bad, and this was definitely good. Those people were as good as any audience anywhere.

This is why we all got into comedy in the first place. Yes, money is nice and everyone’s dream is to play the big rooms but the energy from an audience on a night like tonight is a drug more powerful than heroin. So what if we weren’t in Vegas? This was a super night.

I also sold ten CDs over the two nights. That might not be huge, but it’s income to help pay for the expense I had in getting them made and a also very painful reminder of all the income I’ve lost out on by not having them all this time. It’s probably been at least a year and I’m ashamed of myself for not having anything to sell. I won’t let that happen again.

James and Jim didn’t have anything to sell. People really enjoyed these shows, and now I’ve got ten seeds out there to hopefully grow my name. I realized my mistake but at least I fixed it. A lot of comics I know never do. Nights like tonight need to be capitalized on.
This is the part of the business that’s so difficult to grasp for some people. After a good show, we are in a euphoric mood and want it to last as long as possible. Most comedians I know enjoy that time in different ways. Some have cocktails, others chase women or hang out with the other comics on the show, still others have been known to go the drug route.

What I don’t think most comedians realize is that the audience is in a euphoric mood as well, and in perfect position to make an impulse buy on their way out if there is a product for sale at a reasonable price. The more products available, the better chance of making a sale. It’s very smart business and even if sales are mediocre, they do add up eventually.

I still remember getting lectured about this by James Gregory years ago. James is one of the best marketers I’ve ever seen, and I have nothing but respect for him. He’s an Atlanta based comedian who is king in the southeast and he bills himself as ‘The funniest man in America’. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter in the least. The perception is there.

James has t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, books, CDs, videos, and combinations of all of the above. His website is http://www.funniestman.com and I’m sure he’s got more things for sale because I haven’t checked it in a while. James Gregory knows show BUSINESS.

I’ve been weakly mediocre at best, and the only one to blame is me. I am making a solid conscious decision right now to improve my business skills dramatically. There’s no good reason I haven’t had anything to sell either in person or on my website for this long. I only hurt myself by doing that, and I’m in enough pain already. There’s just no excuse. Period.

Maybe it’s a self esteem thing and deep down some of us don’t think we deserve it. I’ve never enjoyed hawking merchandise, but most times I never hawked it. I just mentioned it was available and if people wanted something they could come get it. And they often did.

I remember James telling me that it’s a worthwhile expense to have as much to offer as possible, as eventually someone will buy it. If I’m doing shows anyway, why not have the largest available inventory possible to give people the most choice? I can’t argue with that and why should I? He’s right. Way more comedians than not never master the marketing.

I’m not talking about having one crappy t-shirt or home made CD or DVD available for sale. I’m talking about taking time to have quality merchandise made up and put in a nice package and offered at the end of a show. That takes a lot of effort, and most never do it.

Most comedians now have websites, but that’s not the same. The impulse buying power after a killer show like we had tonight is priceless. They just saw a red hot performance in person and the endorphins are still surging through their body. THAT’S the time to sell.

I’ve been missing out on this opportunity far too long now and that’s going to stop right this minute. I didn’t have to hawk the ten CDs I sold this weekend, and in fact the people thanked me for letting them buy one. They wanted it, and I had it available. It’s a business deal, and everyone wins. It’s taken longer than I thought, but I’m finally getting smarter.