Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Seinfeld’

The Funniest Man In America

April 2, 2013

Saturday March 30th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   Sometimes words with big meanings get thrown around carelessly, and that ruins the power of those particular words. Two that come to mind immediately are “genius” and “legend”. There are only a scant few who truly qualify as one of those, and far less that qualify as both. Today I got a chance to spend time with someone who is both, and I will be better for it for the rest of my life.

To me, a legend is a person or thing that comes along that completely changes whatever might be the perceived standard. Better yet, if there’s no perceived standard there is one set and kept up by said legend and it becomes used as the measuring stick for everything that comes along after.

Examples I think of immediately are McDonald’s, Michael Jordan and Zig Ziglar. They’ve all established their brand, and been able to maintain it even when competition has come from a lot of sources. They’re still looked upon as the leader in their field, and everyone else chases them.

In standup comedy, there aren’t many who have been able to change the game. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld have traditionally been recognized as the top two acts of the comedy club era, but a name that never comes up and should is James Gregory aka “The Funniest Man In America.”

James is from Atlanta, and has been performing sold out shows to adoring fans for thirty years. That alone is impressive, but what makes him legendary is the way he markets himself and stays on top of the mountain in a business where backstabbing and throat cutting are par for the course.

I’ve always been a huge fan of James from afar, as I’ve known of him for decades. His name is familiar with anyone who works the road as a comedian, if for no other reason that he’s handled his business so much better than everyone else. He understands the game better than anyone else, but he also executes his plan to perfection. He has a system like McDonald’s does, and it works.

James’ manager is Lenny Sisselman, someone I’ve known for many years. He used to manage the Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville, and I always liked him personally and respected his rock solid integrity. Lenny is as honest and trustworthy as they come, and that’s rare in this business.

I’ve always told Lenny how much I admire James, and always wanted to meet him personally. I got my chance a few years ago when we were both on a comedy TV show taping for Comcast that happened to be shot at Zanies in Nashville. All the comedians went out for dinner after the show, and I got to sit at James’ table as he held court telling great stories that made us all laugh.

James has a larger than life charisma, onstage and off. He’s a true character, and one can’t help but be mesmerized by his magnetic personality. He reminds me of how wrestler Dusty Rhodes is able to grab an audience during interviews. There’s a southern rhythm that hypnotizes listeners.

Dusty is known as a microphone master, and it’s no surprise he and James are personal friends. James loves pro wrestling, and that’s another reason I’m a fan. He understands the way wrestlers create personas to establish their rapport with their audience, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

I happened to be attending the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta this week and I received an email from Lenny saying James would like to invite me to visit him at his house while I was in Atlanta “if I had some time.” If I had some time? Let’s cancel the festival and I’ll just hang out with James for a while. That alone would have made my trip worthwhile. Of course I had time.

   We talked on the phone, and James said he was an early riser and I should plan on coming over as soon as I got up. Fine with me. I was a bit nervous in the car because I didn’t want to look like a total goober. Even though we’d met once, we’re not that close. I didn’t want to offend the man.

I arrived at his house, and I immediately knew why James has achieved legendary status. It’s a kind of place a person drives past in stunned awe and asks “I wonder who lives THERE?” It’s an awesome sight, as is the six car garage attached to it. I knew I was in for an amazing experience.   

   James welcomed me like I was an old friend, and led me to his living room to sit down. If ever the Atlanta Falcons need a place to practice in a pinch, there would be plenty of room inside this house. It was immaculately kept, and I was afraid to touch anything but James was a great host.

He made me feel right at home, and then proceeded to tell me some stories of how he started in the business and about his family. He’s incredibly humble, and more than once he apologized for ‘talking about himself’ when in fact that’s exactly why I was there. I wanted to hear all about his life and what he did to be able to stay on top of the game for as long as he has. This was a treat.

He told me about how he’s been working since he was 12 years old, and how his amazing work ethic he learned in sales has transferred over into comedy. He was the first comedian that offered merchandise after his shows – and that includes Leno and Seinfeld. James had cassettes and hats and t-shirts for sale after shows when he was still a feature act, and it’s done him more than well.

Marketing has always fascinated me, and I listened intently as James explained how he worked his way up from being an opening act sleeping on a couch to one of the biggest comedy club acts that ever stepped on a stage in the modern era. He didn’t start until he was in his 30s, and most of the rest of us start in our late teens or early twenties. James made up for lost time and then some.

What I got for my effort was basically a one day one on one seminar from one of the friendliest comics I’ve ever met. I really feel like we hit it off, and I couldn’t get enough of his stories of the way he built his business and career. He’s known as a ‘southern act’, but he really isn’t. Yes he’s from Georgia, but he doesn’t do any typical North/South stuff or anything like that. He’s careful not to go in that direction, and his act is hilarious and clean. That’s why he’s able to sell tickets.

James also has a fantastic hook. He’s billed as “The funniest man in America”, something he’d had written about him by a newspaper reporter years ago. His website is www.funniestman.com, and you can judge for yourself. What a treat it was to spend the day with someone I’ve been such a fan of for so long, only to find out he’s a truly nice person to go along with his legendary status he’s earned in the business. I can’t wait to start implementing the things I’ve learned this week.

Thank You Rick Uchwat

March 20, 2013

Tuesday March 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

     I’ve got a jam packed performing schedule coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I plan on loving every last minute of it. I’ll be all over the place, and in a good way. The money will be appreciated of course, but it’s never been about that. It’s the fun and thrill of being on the stage.

After a lifetime of chasing this elusive dream, I still haven’t gotten tired of the live performing part of the process. I’ve become extremely sick of most of everything else, but that time on stage is still golden – especially when it goes well. There are still times when it doesn’t, but that’s rare.

Far more often than not, I am able to go up there in front of a room full (or not that full) of total strangers and win them over with laughter. I clearly see their defiant stares of “you’d better make me laugh, mister” whether they know it or not. Then when I do, they line up to tell me how much they enjoyed it and I see an entirely different look in their eye. It’s one of admiration and respect.

Once in a while it’s a look of horror or disgust, and occasionally they won’t even look at me at all. Tonight was one of the good nights when they looked at me like a superstar. I’m at Zanies in Chicago yet again, and that’s the place I feel as comfortable as anywhere I’ve ever worked. I am officially one of their boys, and that’s not a bad place to be. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are too.

Leno and Seinfeld and Richard Lewis and Larry Reeb and Tim Walkoe have all been staples of Zanies for decades. Obviously Leno and Seinfeld have gone on to much greener pastures, but both are looked at with reverence as having been people to put Zanies on the map. They’re legends.

The one everyone attributes a huge part of their success to – including me – is Rick Uchwat. He was the owner and founder of Zanies in 1978, and was an unbelievably charismatic personality at a time when comedy was just getting hot. He had a way about him that made everyone develop a fierce loyalty, but it wasn’t fear based like a lot of club owners tend to be. Rick earned a respect.

Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld still have a fondness for Rick to this day, as do a lot of others in an insane business built on self worship. Not everyone cared for Rick, as he could tend to polarize a percentage of the people he dealt with but that’s what I loved most about him. He was straight up and didn’t mince words. You knew where you stood with him, and I was always in good stead.

Rick passed away in 2011, and I miss him terribly. He was a great friend, even though we were not in constant contact. He made sure I always had bookings at Zanies, and he told me no matter how many people I pissed off I’d always have a comedy home on his stages. I never forgot that.

When I had my near fatal car accident in 1993, Rick had a check in my hospital room the very next day for $1500 to cover my immediate needs. I had to pay it back, but I worked it off on his stages at the various Zanies clubs and I’m forever grateful to him and Zanies for that kindness.

Today would have been Rick’s 66th birthday. I had a rock solid show at his club tonight, and I dedicated it to him from the stage. If not for Zanies, I wouldn’t be a comedian. Thank you Rick!

Rick and Jerry

Jerry Seinfeld and Rick Uchwat

Zanies in Chicago - my home club

Zanies in Chicago – my home club

Pleasantly Pooped

February 24, 2013

Saturday February 23rd, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Glenview, IL

   My life sounds a lot like a Dick and Jane book from first grade. Run, run, run. Go, go, go. Run and go. Go and run. See Dobie run. See Dobie go. He is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Look at Dobie’s tongue hang out as he runs himself ragged every day. Dobie is pooped. Pooped, pooped, pooped.

That’s just how it is right now, but I’m not complaining. Everything I’m doing is fun, and how many people can say that? Sure I’m still broke, but at least I’ve got some hope and that’s all any of us can ask for. There have been some very dark times in the past few years, but that’s because there didn’t appear to be any hope on the horizon. Now I’m feeling like I at least have a chance.

My friend Mark Gumbinger called to invite me to lunch today. He’s a film director who wants to film a pilot episode of ‘Mr. Lucky’ as a sitcom. I’m very flattered he’d think of me but I don’t think I’d have time for it just now. I’ve got more than I can handle on my daily calendar already.

If I did have time, he would be the director I’d choose. He’s very meticulous, and knows what he wants each scene to look like. He’d be my own personal Martin Scorcese, and I’d trust him to get the most out of what we had to work with. I had a small part in one of his projects ‘Dead Air’ and it was great fun, but I’m no actor and never claimed to be. Like Seinfeld, I’m a comic first.

They were able to build a solid cast around Jerry Seinfeld, and that’s exactly what would have to happen with me. I’m not opposed to the idea, but right now it’s not something I can spend any time working on. I’ve got too many other things to focus on, but it was still fun to discuss today.

Mark directed my one hour video that was recorded at WLIP studios last year, and it turned out quite well. He’s a total pro, and we work together smoothly. We put together a product we could both be proud of for a very low cost. If we had any kind of budget at all we would be dangerous.

I don’t take acting lightly however. That’s a craft just like comedy, and I haven’t paid any dues whatsoever. People make the mistake of thinking it’s easy to do both, when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I respect the craft of acting, and wouldn’t head into it without a solid plan.

If I ever did get a sitcom opportunity, I’d find a quality mentor and take a class. At least having a basic skill set as a foundation would make things a lot easier for everyone involved. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking on a big project just winging it like I have until now. That’s not smart. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. Like standup comedy it can look easy but totally isn’t.

Speaking of comedy, Bill Gorgo called and asked if I could fill in at the very last minute for his show at The Laughing Chameleon in Glenview, IL. There was supposed to be a feature slotted to do twenty minutes, but he bailed for unknown reasons. Any way I can help Bill, I surely would.

That’s a small room, but it was full tonight and I had a blast. I worked in new material and also switched around some old stuff. I helped a friend, but also used the time to be productive and get ready for The Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in March. It’s all fun, but I could use a breather.

Familiar Territory

February 9, 2013

Friday February 8th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   I’m headlining this week at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort. If there has been one comedy club that has captured my entire tenure in standup comedy, it’s that one. I’ve worked there since it opened in 1989, and have climbed up the ranks on that very stage.

I was strictly an opening act when I started (and a weak one at that) but was young and willing to make the drive to St. Charles from Chicago which was then and remains a big hassle. There is just no easy way to get there, and at some point the journey requires travel on Illinois Route 64.

Route 64 is also known as North Avenue, and there has been continuous construction going on at various points of that road since 1989. I have spent countless hours on that road over the years on my way to shows at Zanies, and more than once I’ve cut it too close for comfort and squeaked by with mere seconds to spare until show time. My stress level on that street alone has been ugly.

I’ve survived managers of every personality type, and ownership changes at the resort. I’ve had some of my very best shows ever on that stage, and have driven home in disgust wondering if I’d made the right career choice. Every emotion that can possibly be experienced, I have felt it here.

Part of me wishes I would have recorded at least one set a year since 1989 so I could document my enormous growth. I don’t think I’ve missed even one year in all that time – even though I’ve had radio jobs all over and didn’t always live in the area. If there was one place I could count on to get a booking, it was Zanies in Pheasant Run. I’m grateful for all the times it has paid my bills.

I am no longer that punk kid looking to come up the ranks, and now doing shows here is about as easy as it gets. I’m so used to the surroundings by now I could do shows in my sleep. There is a nice high stage with a strong sound system, and I know exactly what to do to have hot shows.

I’ve been a regular headliner for years now, and I do actually get fans coming back to see me at this location more than all the others. One nice lady named Harriett Leo is a major fan, and never brings less than half a dozen new people to see me whenever I appear. I was just here a couple of months ago, and she showed up with about ten people who loved the show. I really appreciate it.

This was a fallout week on short notice, and she came back with eight more new people tonight who hadn’t seen me before. I need about 100,000 more Harriett Leos in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for not only her support but for that from Zanies over the years. They have allowed me to go from punk kid wannabe to legitimate comedy headliner, and I will always be grateful.

Those early years were pretty painful. I was beyond horrible as all new comedians are, but they stayed with me and let me work it out until I got better. The Zanies in Chicago is the place that’s touted by Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, but St. Charles is not without its own charms – especially for me since I’ve worked there so often. That place will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope I’m able to keep working on that stage as long as I’m drawing breath. This week was unexpected but appreciated, and I’m going to waste the money on dumb stuff like rent and food.

Near Death Experience?

November 6, 2012

Sunday November 4th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I had another one of ‘those dreams’ again. I don’t have them often, but when I do they are very vivid and it feels like it’s actually happening. The last one I remember was last year after getting out of the hospital with my diabetes diagnosis. The owner of Zanies Comedy Club Rick Uchwat had recently passed away, and I had a vivid dream where he assured me my health would be fine.

I had never had a dream about Rick before, and I haven’t had one since. Was it him? I have no idea, but it sure felt like his essence. Rick was a strong influence in my life, and I always had an enormous amount of respect for him. He took care of me at the exact the times I needed it most, and nobody I can think of besides my grandfather told it like it was as candidly or without sugar.

In my dream, I could absolutely tell it was Rick before he spoke. It looked like him, and he was exactly as I remembered him in his prime. I felt a strong bond with him in life, even though we’d maybe see each other once a year on average if that. There was just something about his vibe that was magnetic. Jay Leno was friends with him for years, as was Jerry Seinfeld and many others.

I have read in more than once source that if souls indeed do come back from the other side for a contact visit it happens in a dream. I’m not saying I totally believe that but I’m also not saying I discount it either. The truth is, I just don’t know. I don’t think anybody does, but who can say?

The dream I had last night was completely different. Rick wasn’t in it, nor was anyone else I’d ever met. I was led into a room by a couple of big old knuckle scraping goon types who appeared to be mobster thugs. They told me to sit down at a table, and then they sat down on each side so I couldn’t go anywhere. There were more of them at the table, and none of them looked to be glib.

One of them directly across the table pulled out a deck of cards of all things, and started to deal hands of blackjack to everyone including me. One of the ones at the table told me this was going to be my “last chance”, and if I didn’t get dealt exactly the right cards I would be dead very soon.

They were all very serious, and I could feel a very real tension as the cards were dealt. I tried to take a quick peek at my cards but I couldn’t make out what they were. I’ve never been much of a card player anyway, so it was very strange to be in this situation at all. I felt totally out of place.

After a few hands, apparently I lost and the game was over. Everyone left except the two goons who’d first brought me into the room, and they said in ominously somber tones my life would be coming to an end very soon and there was nothing they or I could do about it. Then I woke up.

I don’t ever remember having a dream anywhere close to this, both in subject matter and how it felt. The situation was uncomfortably tense, and in such vivid detail it really seemed like I was in a real life situation. Most dreams are forgotten immediately upon awakening, but this stayed with me all day. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did it mean anything? Was it real? Do I need to stop eating before going to bed? It sure did get me to think. I wanted to bring it up on The Mothership Connection radio show tonight, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to ruin the mood. It wouldn’t have fit.

I didn’t want to bring anyone down, but at some point we’ll talk freely about it on the air. It’s a subject we all have to deal with at some point, but I don’t think it has to be negative. I’ve had all kinds of close calls with death, and by now I’m not afraid of it. I don’t want to feel pain before it happens, but who does? The actual process itself not only doesn’t scare me, I find it fascinating.

There are only a few experiences that everyone on the planet is guaranteed to share, and death is one of them. Birth is another, but none of us can remember that far back. We can’t really share the experience, even though we have all gone through it. Death is something only the person that goes through it can experience, but it can affect those around that person in very different ways.

Some of us prepare for it, and others don’t. Very few of us know exactly when it will be, and it can come as a big and rarely pleasant surprise. Look at all the random shootings that happen on a much too regular basis these days. It’s impossible to predict when or where life will cease to be.

Then there are those who have a long illness and know how it will eventually end. I just had an uncle die of cancer on January 1st of this year, and he had been dealing with it for years. He had a lot of time to prepare, yet he went out a defiant ass right to the end. He became stubborn as it got close to the end, and instead of making peace with his kids and family he chose to alienate us all.

My father was the same way. He never made the effort even when he knew his time to live was short, and now it’s too late. He also left behind a trail of useless heartache, and that just seems to be such a waste in my opinion. All of us have limited time here, and when the end becomes near wouldn’t it make sense to at least end on a high note? I guess everyone doesn’t share my view.

I can’t live for anyone else. I can only do what I can do, but I want to do it right. If indeed I am not long for this world, I’m totally fine with it. It really doesn’t bother me at all. I just hope there isn’t a lot of suffering and pain involved. Going to sleep and not waking up would be my choice, but I don’t know if anyone gets to make that call. We’re all on red alert, and it could be any time.

The important thing is to make the most of our time alive, and I have been doing that very well as of late. Pulling off that benefit for Officer Albert in Milwaukee was a perfect example. It took a lot of effort to make it happen, but as it was taking place I sat back and watched it unfold and it was a no brainer that it was the right thing to do. If I do have a death bed, that will be a highlight.

I look at my father and uncle’s lives, and neither one of them had many highlights to look back on. They both mishandled their relationships with their kids, and didn’t build any good will for a lifetime that they could look back on with pride and know they made a difference. They didn’t.

I may not have made close to the difference I think I can, but I did at least make an attempt and at times even had a bit of success. That benefit show really spread some good vibes, and I would love to keep building on it in the future – however long that might be. It could all end tomorrow.

Who can say if this dream I had was a ‘warning message from beyond’ or just a goofy reaction to what I ate for lunch? Whatever it was, I got the message. Life is short, and I want to live it all.

A Night With Friends

February 17, 2010

Monday February 15th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Tonight, for only the second time in recorded history, Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago billed their show as ‘Friends Of Dobie Maxwell’. Basically, I held down the fort because the booker Bert Haas wanted to have a Monday off. I don’t have a problem with that and I totally understand, but a lot of wannabes read a lot more into it. They think I have power.

Most Monday nights are showcase nights and I host those whenever I’m available. I’ve kind of inherited the job over the last couple of years, only because nobody else wanted it. I looked at it as Monday money is never a bad thing, plus I was already coming to Zanies to teach my classes. Why not stay an extra two hours and earn food money for the week?

The majority of those who come through the Monday showcases are decent people. It’s great experience to do a six minute audition set anywhere, and this is a good opportunity for many of these kids, even though probably half or more aren’t ready to be booked yet.

A common mistake most newbies make is getting a few halfway decent minutes they’ve done ten times or less, and then taking that to every comedy club within 1100 miles of the place they’re from, and they shoot themselves in the foot by doing that. They’re not ready.

Plus, in a situation like Zanies, it hurts them even more. Bert Haas has been booking the club for over twenty years, and he’s seen everyone from Jay Leno to Jerry Seinfeld to just about every other top flight comedian from the 20th Century to now. How’s a little Johnny Fuzznuts, 22 year old rookie greenhorn from Green Bay, going to impress a Bert Haas?

They’re not. But they all think they’re going to be ‘the one’ that makes Bert take notice and immediately insert them as a headliner for big money, bumping everyone else in their path out of the way and making them the hot new thing in comedy. I think they think that. I see some of these kids strut around the back of the club, then go up and eat it big time.

It’s happened time and time again, even when Bert tries to lay it out for each of them in a pre-show meeting he has before each Monday showcase. He looks at me from his perch in the back of the room when another young punk goes down in flames, and rolls his eyes at me as I smile. We’re the two old farts trying to be patient as we watch rookie mistakes.

Since I’ve been associated as the regular host of the showcase shows, many think that I must have an inner track to Bert’s ear. I don’t. He books who he books. All I’m in charge of his hosting the shows. Period. Still, I get all kinds of emails and calls asking me to help someone get past Bert’s rules and squeeze them in. It’s to the point of being maddening.

Now, since the show is billed ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’, a few people think I’ll be in charge now and have some booking clout. WRONG. I’m just filling in so Bert can have a night off to spend with his family. I’m not booking Zanies, and I don’t have any authority. Hopefully that will slow the requests down, but I doubt it. I’ll deal with it later. Tonight’s show was really strong, and I’m sure I’ll most likely be asked to do one again. And I will.

Asleep At The Meal

January 31, 2010

Friday January 29th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

This is turning out to be a stellar week of work at Zanies for many reasons. First, we’ve had good numbers for every show so far. I’m not sure if I’m a draw, but it doesn’t matter. I see butts in seats and they’ve walked out smiling and that’s what makes everyone happy.

I’ve been getting great reports on the comment cards, and that never hurts either. Still, I never liked those things and still don’t. The booker of a venue should know what acts are right for that particular room, and not have to consult the unwashed masses for their input on who they want to see in the future. Most of them have no idea what they’re looking at.

That’s no offense to anyone, just fact. Most clubs have some kind of mailing list card to fill out which allows people to suggest who they’d like to see at the club. Most put names like ‘Jay Leno’ or ‘Jerry Seinfeld’ or ’Bill Cosby’ or even some comedians who’ve died.

Sorry comedy fans, Bill Cosby’s career path won’t be leading him to St. Charles, IL any time soon. He has quite a few bigger venues he could sell out in the time it takes to whip up a batch of Jello pudding. He doesn’t need to be working a 300 seat comedy club. I do.

That’s why I don’t need some halfwit marking down bad scores just because he doesn’t like the shirt I’m wearing or the waitress didn’t bring his Long Island Ice Tea fast enough. That kind of thing happens all the time in a lot of one nighters, and it isn’t very fair at all.

But what is? Not much that I know. I just know that Cyndi does her job as the manager and a lot more and tonight she took the comics out to dinner at the world class restaurant called “The Harvest” in the resort. It’s an outstanding experience, from the off the charts food to the amazing service. It’s one of the absolute finest places I’ve ever eaten a meal.

The resort doesn’t have to do that and neither does Cyndi, but they do and we were very grateful for everything. Our server couldn’t have been more thorough and kept our drinks and butter and everything else full the entire meal. We went early enough so it wasn’t that busy yet, and we could enjoy the whole experience. THIS is what makes life worth living.

Hanging out with wonderful friends and eating fantastic food for free is a nice job perk, especially in this day and age. I might not be Donald Trump, but I sure got treated exactly like him tonight. No matter what goes wrong in the next month, this was a total highlight.

After dinner we all went back to the showroom for the start of the first show. I was full from dinner and sat in the back to watch the show like I’m supposed to do. I need to keep track of what happens in case I need to comment on it. Too bad I nodded out in about ten minutes. The host did his time and brought the feature act up, but I slept through all of it.

A waitress woke me up literally right as I was getting introduced. I leapt from my chair and tried to be calm, but I was WAY out of it. There I stood, in front of a full house after just waking up. That’s most people’s worst nightmare. Not me. I enjoyed the challenge.

Wilde About Larry

January 27, 2010

Wednesday January 27th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

Most people, including many comedians, don’t realize how much devotion it requires to keep improving the onstage part of our business. There’s so much to do off stage it’s hard to keep growing as a performer, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to keep doing it.

The ‘act’ is the product we sell. Part of that includes jokes, but it’s also a mixture of all kinds of other intangibles from confidence to experience to presentation. It’s a developed persona wrapped up in a total package, and if it’s done correctly it should always evolve.

George Carlin is a perfect example. He had a 40 year career but was constantly evolving to the point of where it even changed his physical appearance. He started out with the suit and tie look and short hair, and evolved into the counterculture hippie wearing jeans and a t-shirt with long hair and a beard. His comedy evolved along with him. He kept growing.

I’m very much at that point myself, and I relish the challenge. I have more material than most comedians already, only because I made a point to keep working on it over the years while everything else in my life exploded around me. Focusing on comedy kept the bullet out of my mouth in some ways, but it also gave me something to do that I really enjoyed.

Comedy is FUN to me. It always has been. I can’t stand dealing with the club owners or the bookers or the brutal travel schedule or the sleazy motels, but the time onstage is what I live for. It makes up for all the other stuff, and if I’m going to sacrifice a ’normal’ life to get it I’m going to go about it correctly. Comedy is a craft, and it needs to be developed.

There are many aspects to that craft, onstage and off. Both are difficult. I’ve spent years which grew into decades learning the ropes onstage, and it didn’t come easy. Many nights I’d wonder if I made the right choice as I stood on the stage of some honky-tonk hell hole hundreds of miles from home hoping to hypnotize a handful of hooched up hillbillies.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I did learn from it and now I’ve attained a level of expertise as a performer very few ever achieve. Why? Because I stayed with it a lot longer than most others would. Part of that is because of my love of the craft, the other is probably part stupidity. By all accounts I probably should have given this up years ago.

That being said, this is exactly why I need to keep growing. It would be easy to phone in my shows and focus on other things like I’ve seen a lot of other comics do. Unfortunately, some of those things they focused on were bitterness, booze or something else on the ugly list and it ended up destroying the act it took so many years of hard work to put in place.

I don’t think it has to be that way, and I’m going to do something about it. I never drank or did drugs, so that’s a huge minefield I avoided right there. Bitterness on the other hand has been a problem. It’s hard not to be bitter about things that are unfair in life, but who’s going to change that? The only thing any of us can do is become the best US, and let what happens after that happen. That’s where I’m sitting right now. I still can improve greatly.

A major part of that will be reworking my entire onstage act from top to bottom. Every single aspect of everything I do is up for review. It’s like totally remodeling a house that’s been lived in for 25 years. Over that time things wear out or break down and there’s a list of things to fix or improve to bring it back up to speed again. Plus, it’s good to refresh.

My act can use a total rework, and that’s not going to be easy. It’s a matter of busting up a lot of things that have been there for years, but also keeping some of the pillars in place to start rebuilding with a strong foundation. There has to be a well planned blueprint first.

My first 25 years in comedy were very unorganized. I didn’t have much of a battle plan at all other than to just get better on stage and stick it in the ass of everyone who bothered me. That was pretty stupid, especially the last part. Now, I’m not worried about what any other people think. I know where I want to go, and I hope I’m not too late to get there.

The first smart thing I’ve done is knowing what I want to do. I’ve never had that before. The second one will be doing my homework before I start. I’m going to go back in history and study guys before me and see what they did, both right and wrong. I’ve always been a student of the game, but now it’s time to dig even deeper and see what I can find to use.

Larry Wilde is a guy who published over fifty books about comedy from joke books to a classic called “Great Comedians Talk About Comedy”, which interviews a bunch of the biggest names of the 20th century from Bob Hope to Woody Allen to Johnny Carson and a lot more. Larry asks pointed questions and gets some amazing insights from the masters.

There are recordings of his interviews sold on a website called http://www.laugh.com. I have all of them and enjoyed every one. It’s fascinating for me to hear what the guys before me have to say about the craft, and it’s amazing to hear how much of it is timeless, even now.

Larry has his own website at http://www.larrywilde.com and years ago we came into contact, even though I don’t remember exactly how. He’s always been very friendly and I do hear from him on occasion asking me about something comedy related. He’s what I consider a super student of the game, and that’s what I aspire to as well. He’s on top of his business.

He’s also a great entrepreneur, something I really need to learn. I contacted Larry about buying some of the recordings he made with more obscure but equally brilliantly talented comedians like Dick Gregory, Ed Wynn, George Jessel and Joey Bishop. I told him I was interested in buying out all he had and they came in the mail today. I can’t wait to listen.

The complete list besides the people I mentioned are Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas, Maurice Chevalier, Jack Benny, George Burns and Jerry Seinfeld. Those are some heavy hitters and I’m sure I’ll learn from every one.

This is the kind of stuff most performers won’t do. One, it was an investment of money. Larry cut me a deal, but it still will cost a chunk of change not to mention the time it takes to listen, make notes and implement what I learned. But, it’s worth it. I‘ll really improve.