Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Donovan’

Hen Party Hell

May 6, 2014

Saturday May 3rd, 2014 – South Haven, MI

Night number three of the mini tour, and tonight’s stop in South Haven, MI was the only place of the three that I had performed before. When I was here last time, the crowd was excellent and I took no prisoners. Tonight wasn’t like that, and by the end of the night I felt like the prisoner.

Bachelorette parties have long been the bane of standup comedy, but for whatever reason they never stop coming. I have no idea why it appeals to them, but apparently it does and it’s rarely a good idea for anyone involved – especially comedians. Every one of us eventually battles this.

Tonight was a lost cause from the start, and I could tell when I walked in it was trouble. There were three separate parties in the room – all of them sitting directly in front. Red flag and a half. To make it harder, Jerry Donovan was not the host like he was the past two nights, and I knew I would have my work cut out. No rookie emcee can hope to fend off three bachelorette parties.

No offense to anyone, but ONE party gone astray can ruin a whole show much less three. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do about it. Most venues don’t warn the parties to be quiet during the show, and those that do have it fall on deaf ears. They are usually drunk before they get there, and think it’s ok to be the center of attention the whole night.

Dealing with it from the stage can be maddening, and tonight it absolutely was. There was one particularly gassed up bimbo that would NOT shut her pie hole from the time the show started to the second I got off stage. I never knew I had so much admiration for Ike Turner until tonight.

She would ‘WOOOOO’ like Ric Flair after every joke, and it got to be completely annoying in a very short time. The opening acts were all very nice kids, but they had no idea how to deal with it other than to plow through their jokes. It threw all of them, and I see why. It’s very distracting.

What stinks the most is that the venues are making money off of them so they rarely if ever say or do anything to shut them up. They expect us to deal with it, and sometimes it’s just impossible no matter what we try. I was ready to take the mic stand and crack her skull in half like an egg.

I have absolutely ZERO patience and tolerance left for any of this insanity anymore. If this is what standup comedy is, I don’t want to be in this business anymore. ENOUGH already. I have battled enough drunks for a dozen lifetimes, and it’s like cancer – the one battling always loses.

They might hold out for a while, but the bigger force always wins. Battling cancer and drunks won’t stop either from happening again and again, and I for one am over it. If I didn’t have such respect for Jerry Donovan, I would have just placed the mic in the stand and walked off stage to my car and peacefully driven home. I just don’t have a need to fight through this useless idiocy.

I painfully plowed through my set, and by the end of the night I was about ready to take a hot bath and slit my wrists like Pantangeli in The Godfather Part 2. Phil Anglin came out to see me and that made it worse. He’s one of my most loyal fans, and he drove two hours to see the show. He brought his friend Joe, and they both thought I was great. I thanked them, but I felt SO low.

I guess they weren’t the only ones that liked the show. I had people lined up to tell me they’d really had fun, and Jerry’s wife reported to Jerry that it was a killer night. I sure didn’t see that from my perspective, but I’ll let them think what they think. Still, I loathe bachelorette parties.

Bachelorette parties are almost always hell for comedians. They never look like this...

Bachelorette parties are almost always hell for comedians. They never look like this…

....but frequently behave like this.

….but frequently behave like this.

Comedian Tim Slagle has a classic comedy bit about bachelorette parties.

Comedian Tim Slagle has a classic comedy bit about bachelorette parties.


100 People

May 5, 2014

Friday May 2nd, Caledonia, MI

Day two of the renegade comedy tour, and it’s going really well. Last night in Grandville, MI was a blast, and that’s a suburb of Grand Rapids. Tonight I was in Caledonia, which is just a bit farther out but still in the Grand Rapids radar. The show was at a place called “Family Tavern”.

That seems like an oxymoron, but I’d work places like this every night of the year and be able to survive quite nicely. It’s a bar and restaurant owned by a very nice lady named Jodi that is a former college basketball player. Her place is not huge, but there is a basement that is equipped with a separate bar, stage and sound that can seat about 100. It’s a perfect fit for comedy shows.

100 people or thereabouts is a totally livable number believe it or not. Yes, we all fantasize of performing in front of a gigantic theatre packed with 3,000 fans, but unless one is a big name it’s just not going to happen. That doesn’t mean we have to quit the business, as very few ever get to that point. There’s the dream world of show business, and there’s making a living every month.

I’ve had all I can handle to be able to scrape up that living month after month and haven’t been able to spend a lot of time working on filling those big arenas. That might be part of the problem, but the truth is it really isn’t necessary to survive. If I could get 100 people a night to pay a cover charge of $5-$10 to see me on a consistent basis I’d be living in a higher tax bracket. Bring it on!

That’s a lot harder than it sounds though, and in all honesty it’s probably a better pursuit to try for the big venues in the long run. Tonight was an example of how it can really work well for all parties involved though, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Start to finish, this was a total success.

First off, Jodi was behind Jerry Donovan and they worked as a team. Jerry said she was not up for it at first when he initially approached her, but he convinced her to try one night and it was an off the charts grand slam home run. Then she was on board, and they have done eight hot shows.

Jodi’s customers love it, and pack the place on comedy night. She is also drawing new ones in that have now been exposed to what she does. She has an outstanding food menu, and I wouldn’t expect that for such an out of the way small place. That food is up there with the best restaurants.

It is a restaurant technically, but I would never have thought to go there had I been out looking for a place to eat. I would have assumed it was a shot and a beer joint, and gone elsewhere. Now Jodi is bringing in customers for comedy that will try her delicious food and turn into regulars.

Unfortunately, Jodi and Jerry are a lot smarter than the average bar owner/booker combination and that’s why there aren’t more of these hidden little gems. They only do shows once a month, but that’s enough in a town and venue this size. It’s just the right amount, and everybody wins.

Another advantage Jerry has is that he hosts many of his own shows. He’s a solid headliner as well, but having an experienced host in situations like this helps train the audiences to know how to behave. It was a treat for me to have a solid host, and together we blew the roof off the joint.

Ed Bartko was the feature, a very nice guy out of Toledo who is 52 and started comedy later in life. He’s very enthusiastic, and funny too. It was a super night, and everyone was happy. What’s not to like about nights like this? Give me 350 a year, and I’ll shut my mouth. They’re out there.

100 people paying a reasonable cover charge every night would make a tremendous living for any performer.

100 people paying a reasonable cover charge every night would make a tremendous living for any performer – but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

That's about how many there were tonight in Caledonia, MI at The Family Tavern. Fun show, GREAT food!

That’s about how many there were tonight in Caledonia, MI at The Family Tavern. It was a red hot fun show – and GREAT food!

Jedi Jokers

May 5, 2014

Thursday May 1st, 2014 – Grandville, MI

Tonight was the start of my three night run in western Michigan working for Jerry Donovan. In a perfect world he wouldn’t have to exist, but there has never been a danger of this world coming close to perfection so here I am. I’m grateful for these bookings and will do my best for Jerry.

I do my best for every booker I ever work for, but Jerry is one of the few that appreciates it. He does standup comedy himself – and does it very well I might add. He is originally from St. Louis, but somehow managed to end up in the Grand Rapids, MI area. I never asked why, but that’s not the issue. He’s here now, and is making a name for himself in the area. That’s all I need to know.

Jerry handles his business extremely well, and he told me it’s because he worked in sales for a long time before he ever got into comedy. Sales is winning an audience over one on one, and the same principles are used in a group setting with comedy. He’s taken to it like a duck to water and I absolutely love working with and for him. He treats comedians like people, and that’s SO rare.

The reason he’s in the booking end of the business at all is a certain agency that has been based out of Grand Rapids for decades has taken it upon themselves to become pompous and think they own comedy just because they’ve been around so long. The fact is, they COULD have owned the entire Midwest had they been just a little bit nice rather than imperialistic tyrants with attitudes.

They could have had their pick of all the best acts in the area, and for years they did. Then one by one they alienated most of them, and everybody lost out. Their venues are getting a lesser and watered down supply on a weekly basis, and a lot of good comedians are now scraping for work.

Had they handled things differently, Jerry wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. He wouldn’t be able to get the high quality of acts he does, because we’d all be loyal to the agency. Jerry would likely be working for them too, and everyone would be making a decent living. But that isn’t how it is.

The main problem is that the business has been turned over to the sons of the guy that was the original snake everyone worked for for years. None of us particularly liked him as a person, but comedians are stage whores and would work for the Beelzebub Booking Agency if they had the work to offer. I think the old man let the power go to his head and thought we actually liked him.

We TOLERATED him, and there’s a big difference. That’s not the way to build loyalty, and it sure isn’t the way to make friends. Not that business associates need to be friends to the point of coming over for Thanksgiving, but we were the ones that made him a healthy living. Treating us with at least a little respect would have lined his own pockets in the long run. He didn’t see that.

Now there are a significant number of scorned former acts that would go out of their way to get some payback for being dropped from the roster without as much as even an insincere thank you. He could have faked it like a stripper does to keep the money rolling in. It still is to a degree, but not like it used to. Jerry is taking over a nice little chunk, and I for one am behind him 1000%. It feels like I’m in Star Wars. The agency is the Death Star, and Jerry is leader of the Jedi Jokers.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I'm delighted to work for him because he gets it.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I’m delighted to work for him because he gets it.

Jedi Jokers, we are.

Jedi Jokers, we both are.

Grass Roots Support

August 26, 2013

Saturday August 24th, 2013 – South Haven, MI

   The only thing more fun for a comedian than having a smoking hot show on a Saturday night is having it while the person who booked it is in the room. That way there’s absolutely nothing lost in translation, and everyone is on the same page. Tonight I rocked the house in South Haven, MI.

   The guy who books it is a comedian named Jerry Donovan. I’ve worked for him a few times in the last year or so and he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite contacts. He handles business in the most professional way, and is an absolute joy to work with. I wish all bookers were like him.

   It’s extremely rare for anyone to be proficient as both a performer and booking agent, but there is the occasional exception. Jerry is one as is Keith Stubbs in Salt Lake City. Jim McHugh does a superb job in Chicago as does Steve Sabo in Toledo. After them, I have a hard time naming any.

   Jerry is one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen in a long time. He finds classy venues in the concentrated area of western Michigan where he lives, and then goes about doing a thorough job of promoting them correctly. That’s the difference. He’s not just running half assed hell shows in  sleazy bars. He goes out and finds sponsors and makes sure they’re run properly. And they are.

   He makes sure there is adequate lighting and sound – another important detail too many tend to overlook – and hosts the majority of his shows himself. He’s a funny seasoned pro, so it also adds to the quality of the evening. From top to bottom, Jerry pampers the audience, venue and comics.

   What a treat it is to work for a guy like that. His hard work shows through, and every time I’ve been lucky enough to work for him it’s been a fun experience. Tonight was no different, as they had a sold out show and the biggest crowd they’ve had for a comedy night to date. It was a blast.

   To make the evening even more productive, I was able to bring along one of my students from the Zanies comedy class to do a five minute guest set. He asked to tag along and offered to drive, so that sold it right there. Any time I don’t have to drive, count me in. That was yet another treat.

   This is exactly how the comedy business should be on so many levels. The crowds Jerry brings in – get this – WANT to be there. They didn’t win free tickets by the pound by dropping business cards in a fish bowl at the tanning salon. Jerry promotes it all properly, and books top level acts.

   There’s a fair cover charge, and people either pay or they don’t. Those that choose to are there to be entertained. That’s the formula, but there’s nothing secret about it. It’s HARD WORK, and plenty of it. Jerry is out there busting his ass trying to make a living for himself and his family. If he makes a profit – and I sure hope he does – he earns every last penny.

   As I was getting paid after the show, Jerry told me of one of his venues that has dropped him as booker and is going with one of the greasy ones. They thought he was making too much, and got greedy. The other booker immediately cut the pay for the comics, and began using far lower acts to save money. Cutting corners like that is the beginning of the end before they start. Jerry does it right, and he has my loyalty to the death. It costs a little bit more to go first class, and he does it.

Jerry Donovan - a class act onstage and off!

Jerry Donovan – a class act onstage and off!

No Glitches Tonight

March 25, 2013

Friday March 22nd, 2013 – Holland, MI

   This is the beginning of a very hectic stretch, and I’m crossing my fingers I get through it with as few glitches as possible. It’s hard enough to make plans in general, but then hiccups occur out of the blue and it can derail the whole train. I’m heading into this without guarantees of anything.

Seemingly little things like a car problem or flu bug could prove to be disastrous if they happen to come at an inopportune time – which in my world they always do. I can only do my best to try and show up everywhere I need to be, and do the best I can do when I get there. My plate is full.

Tonight I needed to be in Holland, MI for a show at a beautiful venue called The Park Theatre. It’s an old Vaudeville house that was almost torn down, but the city is repairing it and they want events to attract business. Jerry Donovan is a comedian and promoter I have just started to work for recently and he happened to have a fallout for tonight and asked if I wanted it. I told him yes.

It’s true I wanted the work, but it’s going to really make my already packed weekend schedule even more so. I’m also scheduled to perform with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars in Spencer, IA tomorrow night so that means I’ll need to really hump it if I’m going to get there.

I didn’t have time to think about that tonight, as I had a show to do. I hadn’t been to Holland in a while, and I thought I remembered how to get there but of course I didn’t and made a turn that got me totally lost. I made it to the theatre right at show time, but I don’t like cutting it that close.

I’m extremely glad I came though, as what a night it was. I have been having consistently solid shows of late, but this one was for the ages. I’d go as far as to say this was THE hottest audience I have performed for in the last dozen years or more. They were on a level that I’ve rarely seen.

Jerry hosted the show and did a very professional job. The feature act was Chris Young out of the Ann Arbor area, and he was the perfect act in front of me on this night. He did an outstanding job, and everything just fit together like it was custom made. That’s hard to plan for, but when it happens everyone can feel it. For whatever reason, all the pieces of the show fit together tonight.

The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was full and they completely got all of us the entire night. I have been part of some killer shows in my day, but this one was right up there with anything I’ve ever been part of in any size venue anywhere. It’s like fate brought every one of us together tonight.

It got to the point I had to stop and let them breathe several times because I didn’t think they’d be able to laugh anymore – but they did. Shows like this make those long drives worth the hassle – but they still are exactly that. I was barely done shaking hands and then it was back in the car.

I was on a major high most of the way home, but then I ran into some heavy traffic in Chicago that wiped a bit of the smile off my face. I got home at 2am, but I’ve got to get right back out and make it to Spencer, IA for another show tomorrow night. Who would have thought an old theatre in Holland, MI could be such a great experience? It totally was, but now it’s over. On to Spencer.

Outlasting The Weenies

February 3, 2013

Saturday February 2nd, 2013 – Saugatuck, MI

   There’s a new generation of comedy show bookers coming up the ranks, and I’m delighted I’m on their radar. When anyone starts at anything, they pretty much have to take their lumps and eat dust, crow or whatever other unpleasant dish is on the menu and they either accept it or move on.

It’s kind of like when a parent refuses to accept that a child has grown up and still reverts back to calling them a childhood nickname. Those days are over, but not in the parent’s mind. It’s the same with the comedy process. Bookers know they can abuse all the newbies because there will be an endless supply lining up to get whatever anyone may turn down. Respect rarely is given.

Well, I’ve had my issues with many of them over the years but have clawed and scratched my way to my position now. Whatever anyone may think of me personally, I am a rock solid comic and can handle just about any situation anyone can put in front of me. I’ve become a headliner.

I’ve also managed to establish a reputation of being a nice guy to deal with, even though there will always be those that think I’ve got three sixes tattooed on my head somewhere. I can’t help what those few think, and can only try to continue doing the best I can onstage and off. And I do.

It’s paying off because I’m getting calls asking me to work gigs I didn’t know existed. I’m glad to get work in general, but it’s especially nice to be respected by those who are asking. It’s funny how a reputation grows and then becomes part of one’s identity for life with those who make it.

I feel a sense of respect in comedy now that has never been there before, and even though I had to trade my youth to get it I’ll take it and enjoy every minute of it. Those I met as a piss ant little beginner didn’t have to be nice to me – and many weren’t. Taking it personally was my mistake.

It wasn’t me as much as the position I was in, but now that’s changing. I’m now someone who can make a booker look good in virtually any situation, and not be a pain in the ass prima donna off stage either. The new breed of people I’m dealing with is realizing that, and it feels fantastic.

Tonight I worked in Saugatuck, MI for a guy named Jerry Donovan. He’s booking some shows in the Western Michigan area around Grand Rapids, and this one was a pure delight. Jerry wasn’t able to be at this particular show as he had two others going, but that’s a super problem to have.

I honestly can’t remember how he even got my name, but he contacted me a few months ago to book a show and I got to pick my week which was tonight. There was a full house and they came to laugh. Jerry’s wife Sara was running the show and couldn’t have been easier to deal with. She paid me in cash before I went on, and made sure my intro was correct. This is how it should be.

I’d work for people like this any time, and they think the same of me. I can feel a synergy with these people, and that’s also how it should be. I am now the one in the driver’s seat with the hard earned experience, but I don’t want to let any of that go to my head. Being easy to deal with will keep the work coming in, and that’s what I want. Slowly but surely I’m outlasting the weenies.