Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Schneider’

Hooking People Up

October 10, 2013

Tuesday October 8th, 2013 – Palatine, IL

Who a person knows really does matter in life, but only if action is taken to make those sources pay off. Today some actions I took with several contacts came together, and even though none of it was of direct benefit to me I still felt good about making it happen. I proved it could be done.

Jeff Schneider used to own the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Milwaukee when I started. He has the ability to polarize people just as I do, but he is extremely intelligent and we have remained in touch going on thirty years. I’m one of the few who get where he’s coming from, but I totally do.

Jeff put together a well thought out presentation called “Avoiding the Homogenized Life” that deals with the choices we all have to make in life whether to do our own thing and chase passion projects or settle for mediocrity and play the game. He put a lot of time into it and I liked what it was about. It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with my whole life, and I know many others are facing it too.

Jeff constantly bemoans the fact that nobody will call him back – even though when he owned his comedy clubs for thirty years he was known throughout the comedy world as one who was as difficult to get a hold of as anyone. I find it funny to hear him complain when tables are turned.

He was looking to video record his presentation in a college atmosphere so he could approach colleges about hiring him to speak for students. His perspective at age 60 had changed from his perspective as a student, and he thought it would benefit college kids to garner some inside tips.

I have a friend at Harper College in Palatine, IL named Scott Cashman who is the Director of Continuing Education. I think Scott is one of the most on the ball people I’ve ever met, and I’m glad we crossed paths. He’s also extremely intelligent, and I thought he would get Jeff’s angle.

I hooked Jeff up with Scott, and Scott (mostly as a favor to me) booked Jeff to deliver his talk at Harper. He told me that if I recommended Jeff, that was good enough for him and he’d give it a shot. I’m flattered to have that kind of influence, but that’s what’s needed to get things started.

I also put Jeff in touch with Jay Bachochin who owns “Chum Bucket Studios” where he does excellent audio and video work, graphic design and the like. I knew Jay would do a splendid job, so I instructed Jeff to hire Jay for the evening. You can as well at http://www.chumbucketstudios.com.

Jeff asked if I wouldn’t mind opening the evening with a few minutes of standup comedy as an audience warm up, and I said I would. Since I had lined up all the involved parties, the very least I could do was show up and see how it came off. I was curious myself as it was a total crapshoot.

We had a grand attendance total of 36, but it was held in a small room so at least it looked full for recording purposes. What surprised everyone was that only one student showed up – and she was with her parents. Jeff had targeted it for students, but that’s not at all who showed up. Those who did enjoyed the evening, and we could tell because they stayed afterward to ask questions.

Even though it was a small crowd, I still felt like the event was a big success. I made it happen with my contacts, and that made it even better. Now I need someone to do the same thing for me.

Harper College in Palatine, IL is a great place to learn. Scott Cashman is in charge of Continuing Education.

Harper College in Palatine, IL is a great place to learn. Scott Cashman is in charge of Continuing Education.

Need something recorded? Contact Jay Bachochin at www.chumbucketstudios.com.

Need something recorded? Contact Jay Bachochin at http://www.chumbucketstudios.com.

In Rust We Trust

January 30, 2013

Saturday January 26th, 2013 – Latrobe, PA

   The ‘King of The Rust Belt’ strikes again! I had a sizzling hot show tonight in Latrobe, PA that was right up there with the best I’ve ever had, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. This is right in my element, and I can swing a mighty hammer in these situations. I need to find more of them.

Put me in front of a friendly blue collar audience over thirty in a rust belt town and I’m good to go. I know how to touch these people, and make them laugh until they can’t breathe. They totally get the concept of Mr. Lucky, as they can all relate to it in their own lives in one way or another.

I’ve done well in other parts of the country, but The Rust Belt is my wheel house. Anywhere in the vicinity of a Great Lake is usually my bread and butter and I love working places many other comics prefer to stay away from like Buffalo or Detroit or some smaller town that has nasty cold weather and a ravaged economy. I’ll show up. Those are the people that need to laugh the most.

Latrobe, PA is about fifty miles east of Pittsburgh, and they’ve been putting on comedy shows for the Parks and Recreation Department for many years. Jeff Schneider from the Funny Bone in Pittsburgh has been booking the talent, and asked me last summer if I wanted to do it this year.

I wasn’t looking forward to the drive, but he told me it was a good gig and the comics he’d sent in previous years all had fun. I assumed I probably would too, but not to this level. I was at home from the time I stepped on the stage until I got off 55 minutes later. I could have done longer, but those people had laughed enough. It was time for them to go home and they went home satisfied.

Of course like a dummy I didn’t bring any CDs or DVDs to sell, and that was a major mistake I won’t soon make again. There were about 350 people that would have cleaned out any and all of my merchandise inventory, and I blew a fantastic chance to return home with a significant bonus.

Merchandise has never been a strong part of my game, and that needs to change yesterday. I’m leaving well earned money on the table, and that’s just not smart business. Not every crowd buys merchandise, but those that do usually do it in droves. This would have been one of those nights.

Still, it was a wonderful experience all around and I’m glad I came – long drive and all. Doing shows like this is why I got into comedy in the first place, and if I have my way I’ll be doing lots more of them for as long as I’m breathing. There just isn’t anything else that gives me this buzz.

There’s no way I shouldn’t be rich doing this, and I’m going to find out how to achieve that so I don’t have to keep driving ratty cars and living like a lowly bum. I’ve spent my life getting my ‘show’ part down, now it’s time to master my ‘business’. I made a few bucks tonight, but I could be making a whole lot more doing exactly the same thing. I need to tighten up my plan of action.

James Gregory is a comedian from Atlanta who kills in the Southeast. He sells out theatres and his fans adore him. He doesn’t work anywhere else because he doesn’t have to. He’s a huge draw in his area and I find nothing wrong with that. I’d love to be the James Gregory of The Rust Belt.

Cranberry Stomping

March 7, 2010

Saturday March 6th, 2010 – Cranberry, PA

Totally different vibe onstage tonight. Wow! THIS is the reason I started doing comedy, only dreaming someday I’d be having shows like this. Now I am, and I’m going to take it all in and enjoy every last tiny morsel. No matter what else happens, I’ve lived my dream.

Maybe that initial dream was a little fuzzy, and maybe I was more than a little naïve. Or both. I guess I just assumed that having great shows would lead to wealth and fame, but it totally doesn’t. There are so many other things involved besides talent that nobody knows or thinks about at the beginning, and it’s probably good because everyone would just quit.

From the very start, I knew that comedy was a craft. I also knew I wanted to be a master craftsman, and that it would take years to attain that status. I don’t know why I knew that, but I absolutely did. Now I can look back and be extremely proud of myself for not giving up like I’ve seen countless others do along the way. I could have too, but I stayed with it.

Tonight’s show at the Funny Bone was about as hot as a standup comedy show gets. It’s the best feeling in the world when audience and performer are on the same page, and I felt it from the first ten seconds on stage. I knew this was going to be fun, so I dug in and let it rip. I was in perfect time, and prowled the stage knowing I’d be able to make it all work.

Shows like this don’t come along every night, but when they do I’m seasoned enough to be able to recognize it right away and make the most of it. I wasn’t feeling good at all off stage, but the audience doesn’t care about that. They paid their money and a percentage of them didn’t feel that great themselves. They wanted to see a show. I didn’t blame them.

I don’t know how I did it, but I hurt my left knee and it’s excruciating. I must have done something, but I have no idea what. Maybe I twisted it in my sleep or something but I had a hell of a time walking on it all day and it was hell getting in and out of my car. Plus, I’m trying to get over a horrific sore throat and my voice was strained and squeaking all night.

I really didn’t feel like doing a show at all, but there was a full house tonight and among the people there was the owner Jeff Schneider’s wife Laurie. She lived in Milwaukee way back in the beginning when I was just starting, and I ate many a meal at their house at that time. One Thanksgiving I was there with Bill Engvall, as he was at the club that week.

I hadn’t seen Laurie in many years, and she sells real estate now. She brought a group of her friends out specifically to see me, and that made me feel really good. I thanked her for her cooking and generosity all those years ago, and apologized for all the horrific sets she sat through at the beginning when I was beyond horrible. She smiled and gave me a hug.

“Everyone has to start out somewhere, but we ALWAYS knew that you were funny. It’s no surprise you’re doing well, and I wanted to bring my friends to see you.” I almost cried when she said that, and it really meant a lot. She did see me when I started, and she didn’t have to come back all these years later, but she did. And then I went up and kicked ASS.

It was one of those nights when everything went right, and when that happens it’s like a spiritual experience. It almost feels out of body. I read once where great athletes get in the zone where not only do they know where the ball is, they know where it’s GOING to be.

The same feeling applies to this. I not only know what’s working now, I can sense what bits I should do following the one I’m currently doing. I’m in the moment and performing the bit I’m doing, but another part of my mind is sorting through my rolodex of other bits.

It’s odd, but not unpleasurable. I love having the complete control of the whole show at my fingertips and choosing where to take them next. Tonight was one of those nights that they were going to let me, and I could feel their intense silence as they soaked in the show because I’d earned their trust. There are two kinds of silence, and this was the good one.

The opening act this weekend was a very funny 27 year old kid out of New York named Joe Pontillo. I thought he had some very well written funny material and wasn’t a pain off stage either. It was a well  booked show where all the acts blended together. It’s frightening how many bookers don’t ever grasp that idea, but Jeff is one of the few who totally does.

I was watching Joe’s set when I saw two people get up and walk out. I know Joe saw it too, but when that happens there aren’t many choices. Talking to them would have drawn attention to it, and there was a possibility of it getting uglier than it already was. The rest of the audience liked him fine, and they didn’t really care if a random couple didn’t agree.

This is a tough situation, and every comedian has to face it at some point. It’s a blow to the ego to have anyone get up and walk out during a performance, and I’ve had it happen to me many times. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. It just goes with the territory.

I talked to Joe about it after the show and he said it did rattle him at first, and I told him that’s perfectly normal. I also told him he reacted 100% correctly by not saying any nasty comments on the way out and just letting them go. I also told him the reason people leave isn’t always that they didn’t like the show. I have my own personal horror story with that.

I was in New York City a few years ago visiting my friend Ross Bennett. We were club hopping and he had a set to do at another club and gave me the high sign we needed to get going. The bad thing was, I was watching Dave Chappelle at the time and the only way to exit the club was to walk through the audience and it couldn’t be done inconspicuously.

I tried to be as invisible as I could, but Dave immediately drew attention to it and it was very uncomfortable for everybody. I knew it bothered him, and I wanted to explain why it was happening, but I just lowered my head and kept going. It had nothing to do with him.

Joe is a funny kid and he’ll be fine, and as I watched him throw out his lines it sure did remind me of myself twenty years ago when I was trying to find my way in the business. I guess I still am in some ways, but onstage I’ve really come a long way. Dave Chappelle is a lot richer than I am, but as far as sheer satisfaction goes – nobody can touch me tonight.