Posts Tagged ‘Jerry’s Kidders’

An Impromptu Reunion

October 5, 2013

Friday October 4th, 2013 – Rockford, IL

When I was on the radio with Jerry Agar, Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara as “Jerry’s Kidders”, we had a super fan name Fard (pronounced ‘Fa-RAHD’) Muhammad who we all came to consider a friend. He’s a super guy and very intelligent, and we have all stayed in touch for several years.

Fard is also a rabid fan of Dennis Miller, and managed to score four tickets to Dennis’ show at the gorgeous Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL tonight and asked if the Kidders would join him. Tim, Ken and I all happened to have the night free so we arranged an impromptu Kidder reunion.

The four of us rode in one car and busted balls the whole way there and back. It was a night of big fun and laughs all around, and everyone was in a great mood. This wasn’t something we had planned for very long, it just kind of came together in a couple of days. That made it even better.

We made it to Rockford with plenty of time to spare, and settled in our seats at the spectacular Coronado Theatre. That’s one of the most gorgeous old theatres I’ve ever seen, and being able to see it in person made the trip worthwhile even if there wasn’t a show to go with it. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. It’s got to be on a list of the top architecture in America. It’s a true gem.

Our seats were eighth row center, and Dennis came out at 7:30 sharp. He might have even been a couple of minutes early, which doesn’t usually happen for any live entertainment. There wasn’t an opening act, and I found that a bit odd too. Usually in larger theatre situations there is a warm up act of some kind to focus the crowd’s attention. Ken, Tim or I would have loved that chance.

None of us were upset, as we were there to relax and enjoy the show. We all happened to enjoy Dennis, and not everyone does. He tends to polarize people, but that’s what great entertainers do. People love Dennis Miller or they can’t stand him – and I can see why. It’s like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers. There are rabid fans in one camp, and those that couldn’t get far enough away.

What I love about Dennis Miller is his unbridled gratuitous use of adjectives. He paints picture after vividly descriptive picture, and does it with distinct rhythm. I love watching him work, and he made us laugh out loud numerous times despite the fact he was fighting a nasty cold all night.

Most of the audience had no clue how difficult that can be, but Tim, Ken and I have all been on stage when we were fighting the crud and knew exactly what he was going through. That made it all the more interesting to watch, but he still delivered and made us laugh. That’s a professional.

After the show we had a world class meal at Franchesco’s Italian Ristorante where Ken books comedy shows of his own. We relaxed and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, and it was a perfect night from start to finish. We had nothing but laughs and fun, and wondered why every night couldn’t be like this. It’s not and never will be, so that’s why it’s important to savor every second of this.

Sometimes things just all work out – even for Mr. Lucky. If every day were like this I probably wouldn’t be a comic, but that’s ok. I’d have a lot less stress in my life, but I’d gladly blaze a new career path accordingly. I’m sure Dennis Miller has stress too, but that’s what comedians do. We help others forget about their troubles for a while, even though we’ve got a full load of our own.

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word - WOW!

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word – WOW!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don't. I happen to think he's great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don’t. I happen to think he’s great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Chicago Radio Superfan turned  friend Fard Muhammad

Chicago Radio Superfan turned friend Fard Muhammad

Tim Slagle - his CD 'Europa' is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. www.timslagle.com

Tim Slagle – his CD ‘Europa’ is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. http://www.timslagle.com

Ken Sevara - check out his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com

Ken Sevara – check out his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com

Day Of Distraction

July 4, 2013

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL/Libertyville, IL

   Every time I try to get a solid day’s work in, my phone rings and I get sidetracked. Today I got two more calls that took me off course. I suppose I could have said no to both, but that wouldn’t have been the right decision. My sky high pile of things to do will have to wait yet one more day.

   My first stop was the studios of WIND radio in Arlington Heights, IL. Ken Sevara hosts a talk show called ‘Fly By Night’ which runs at midnight on Sunday mornings, and he had a fallout for a guest. I’ve done the show before, and it’s a lot of fun. Publicity is always good, and it was also a chance to help someone and I try to do that whenever I can. It’s points on the old karma board.

   We recorded the show and it went very well, as we both knew it would. It’s not a matter of the ability to be entertaining, it’s everything else. Ken brokers the air time from the station, and has to come up with sponsors every week. He’s doing exactly what I was doing with the Mothership Connection on WLIP, only he’s on a bigger station for a shorter time. Still, there are bills to pay.

   Ken is much better suited to do a show like that than I am, as he’s a master salesman. He has a flair for everything I don’t, and this is a good fit for him. Does anyone listen? Who knows? That isn’t always as important as being able to tell a client “Hey, come be a guest on my radio show.”

   I get that, but what if anything actually makes a difference? Ken, Tim Slagle and I were on two major radio stations in Chicago doing our ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ segment, and that didn’t make us one nickel. It was great fun and I have to believe someone heard it, but it didn’t translate into dollars. Was it worth doing? Again, that’s hard to say. On a fun level, yes. On a money level, it bombed.

   I hope Ken’s show is a huge success, and he seems to be doing very well with it. He’s getting a variety of sponsors, but he has to go out and sell them. He has the ideal personality for it, where I don’t. He loves to get out and press the flesh, whereas I like to do my show and keep to myself.

   My next stop was Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL to audition for a speaking role in a film of all things. It’s a small role, but a film role nonetheless. I’ve done a couple of things in the past as far as acting, but nothing major. I’ve had bit parts in two other films, and both were very fun.

   This role is of a pompous but clueless security guard, and I went over my lines most of the day. There aren’t many, but I’ve always been horrible at memorizing lines. Even in my comedy, I’ve always been pretty loose as a rule, and I like to be free to ad lib. That’s not the way acting works.

   I won’t be upset if I don’t get the part, but I think it would be fun and productive to do it. I got the call from David Stuart at Improv Playhouse, and he’s the guy in charge. He’s got his hand in the local acting and improv scenes, and strongly suggested that I get myself a new headshot and register with a talent agency. I’ve never pursued that angle, but it wouldn’t hurt to go that route.

   They film commercials and movies in Chicago all the time, and I’ve heard of other comedians getting hired for bit parts in the past. It just wasn’t something I felt a calling to do. I was an extra in the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’ with Sandra Bullock, and it was pretty boring actually.

   Acting is mostly a bunch of standing around, and that never thrilled me. I do trust David as far as his credibility, and he strongly suggests I pursue it. We’ll see if I get this part, and then I’ll go from there. I have enough other things I need to do without one more project. I could use a clone.

My movie debut...for about six seconds.

My movie debut…for about six seconds.

War Scarred Testicles

June 27, 2013

Wednesday June 26th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   My friend Jerry Agar rolled through town today on a cross country motorcycle trip, and we had a chance to sit down and catch up over a delicious lunch at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We’d originally hoped to have all the members of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ from WLS and WGN reunite for a party, but we couldn’t hook up everyone’s schedules. People were out of town, so it was just us.

   Jerry and I have been through a lot together, and even more separately. We met in the late ‘80s when he was working at a tiny AM station in St. Charles, IL and I was working for the new club Zanies was starting in the Pheasant Run Resort at the time. It started as a one shot interview, but we kept in touch from that day forward. Today we looked back on all of our tangled adventures.

   Both of us ended up moving all over the country to pursue the radio dream, and that came with a heaping helping of hurt. Rarely have we lived in the same town or even same time zone, but we still managed to stay in touch by phone and email. We’d help each other with various projects or radio bits, and when one of us got fired – again – the first call we’d make would be to the other.

   Jerry had the additional pressure of a family to support, and his wife Ann should easily qualify for first ballot sainthood for all she’s had to endure with this mine field of a business. They have three fantastic kids who I consider to be surrogate nephews and a niece, and every time they had to pack up everything and move one more time Ann would hang in there and keep it all together.

   That’s the kind of family relationship I’ve always wanted – at least the together part. It’s not in the cards, and when I really needed it it was never there. I was always of the mindset it was cruel and unusual punishment to drag a wife much less kids through the treacherous jungle of radio.

   Comedy is no clam bake either, but at least it’s a predictable instability. As a comedian, I know I will be somewhere else each week. In radio, one never knows when the next time bomb will go off – only that it will. Stations get sold, GMs and Program Directors move on, so who can say if a job will be there tomorrow? It’s always been that way from my experience, but now it’s worse.

   Jerry is currently working in Toronto, and he has really made an impact on the market. He does talk radio, and does it extremely well. He’s found his niche, and few can do what he does with as much skill as he does it. One would think that would go hand in hand with total job security – but one could not be more mistaken. The planets could align against him and he’d be out on his arse.

   Jerry told me his station is in the process of getting sold, and my bung hole puckered. That puts everyone at the station on edge, and I’ve gone through it more than once myself.  Two other pals in radio “Stone and Double T” in Rockford, IL are going through the same hell. Their station just got sold as well, and the standard company line is always “We expect there to be NO changes.”

   My war scarred testicles. I wish I had a free lunch for every time I heard that splattering pile of verbal manure emanate from behind the desk of some greasy radio snake – only to get shown the door a short time later. Then to make it worse, they themselves are blown out a short while after that and it was like none of us ever existed in the first place. It’s a vicious never ending cycle.

   It was great to hang out with Jerry, but I can’t help feeling for him and his family. He’s settling in nicely in Toronto, but he was doing the same thing in Chicago before he got axed for reasons I still haven’t been able to figure out. If there is a hell, there’s a whole wing for radio management.

A Sixty Minute Success

July 4, 2010

Saturday July 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Dyer, IN

Jerry Agar called and asked if I wanted to be on the air with him today as he had a shift on the radio. We weren’t able to do a Kidders show because Ken Sevara’s voice is acting up and Tim Slagle was preparing for his yearly 4th of July weekend party he likes to host.

Any time I have a chance to spend an hour on WGN radio in Chicago, I take it. That’s a monster station, and it’s always worth being on it because of the exposure to hundreds of thousands of people all over the Midwest I’d likely never get in front of any other way.

That truly is a broadcast, going out all over the place to all different types of people. It’s an opportunity to do a sixty minute commercial for myself I’d never be able to pay for, so that’s a chance I had to take. I know I have projects going, but this was worth my time.

Jerry decided it would be a good topic to talk about traveling America for the 4th of July week so he picked the right person to kick it off. I bet I’ve seen more of the United States than 99.999% of anyone other than truck drivers or hitch hikers. I’ve spent my entire life on the road, and seen all four corners of the continent and most every crevice in between.

We had a fun segment, and it lit up the phones. That’s the great thing about a big station like that, virtually ANY subject will light up the phones because it relates to someone that happens to have a radio on. We didn’t need phones though, Jerry and I know what to do.

We used to go off on stuff like this all the time when we first met twenty years ago back at AM 1480 WFXW, the tiny station he worked at in St. Charles, IL. That station isn’t on the air anymore, but we sure had fun while it was. We knew nobody was listening, but we still tried to do entertaining radio anyway. We used to dream of being on WGN someday.

Neither one of us are rich or famous on a large scale, but we sure did live our dreams of being on WGN. Had someone told either one of us twenty years ago we’d achieve that, it probably would have blown our minds right out of our ear. I enjoyed every minute of our time on the air today, even if it wasn’t exactly the way we thought it would be. It was fun.

Jerry has to be back in Toronto and I am doing what I’m doing, but for an hour we were exactly where we dreamed of twenty years ago. Yes, the Kidders were and are a blast, but this is what we both wanted back then – the two of us bantering back and forth on WGN.

Jerry had to be on the air until 9pm, but I left and went to Tim Slagle’s house in Indiana for his yearly blowing up of mass quantities of legal fireworks. Ken Sevara also came out with his wife Lori and Jerry showed up after his shift. We had a Kidders reunion anyway.

We all know we could probably be doing better, but we could all be doing worse too. It was great to be together as a group, and we enjoyed blowing up all the heavy artillery Tim bought. Good times with good friends are never a bad investment. I spent this day well.

Kipper And Kidders

June 23, 2010

Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

Jerry’s Kidders are back together…even if it was only for a single lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We hadn’t seen each other in way too long, and even though Jerry Agar wasn’t able to join us, it was still great to see the Kidders. We still have a solid chemistry.

The reason we chose the Brat Stop is because it’s in between Milwaukee where Kipper McGee lives and the far south side of Chicago where Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle happen to live. I’m right in the middle so I had the shortest drive of all, and of course I was late.

The guys started busting my chops before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and that reminded us all of why we had so much fun for two years. We enjoyed being on the radio but the lunches and hanging out were always a huge part of the deal. It was our own little tree house, and everyone felt welcome. We all knew immediately how much we miss it.

Kipper McGee was our program director at WLS, and I told the guys then we’d never have such a supportive situation as far as radio goes. Kipper was in our corner and still is. He gave us the chance to grow as a team on the air, and he never squelched the creativity like way too many other clueless control freak program directors love to do. He got us.

It’s such a shame that radio is so trigger happy to fire competent people and allows the goof balls to remain employed. Kipper McGee is a brilliant radio programmer with a soul to boot, and he gets blown out the door of WLS while the corporate honcho named Farid or Farouk or Farout or Feng Shui or whatever his name is continues to ruin the company.

That story is WAY too common in radio, and I’m sick of it as are Kipper and the other Kidders as well. We got booted off the station when Jerry did, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t still be there. Now he’s had to split up his family and go work in Toronto.

We didn’t dwell too much on the negative though. We knew we don’t get the chance to see each other in one place much anymore so we spent most of our lunch looking back at the fun times we had and laughing uproariously. There were some real moments with us.

We also talked about how we can keep the project going. It’s a lot of fun to sit around a studio and fire off lines about news stories of the week, and when we were on our game it was pure electricity. None of us want it to end like this, but what do we do to reignite it?

Jerry is going to be in Toronto for the foreseeable future, and that’s just how it is. We’re not angry, we all know he needs to turn a buck. We all do. How can we do it with a show that does current events jokes for an hour each week? That’s a tall order and we know it.

Still, there’s no reason we can’t reinvent ourselves and that’s what we bounced around the table. Kipper knows a lot of people in radio, and he still believes in us as a team. He’s of the opinion we should try to stay on in Chicago, and we all agree. But where? WGN is the logical choice, but Jerry hasn’t been on so neither have we. Still, it was a fun lunch.

Monday Money

May 5, 2010

Monday May 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Speak of the devil. Yesterday I read of Jay Leno’s difficulty having to perform in a very awkward situation, and lo and behold today I get to do it myself. Again, nothing new. I’ve been doing it my entire adult life. It goes with the territory of being a full time comedian.

Money comes when it does in comedy, but it’s always welcome. Most shows happen at night in some sort of venue that’s hopefully done comedy before. Even those can be a bit tricky at times, but then there’s the other kind of bookings that have no parameters at all.

Those can and do occur any and everyplace from a flimsy tent to a garage to who knows where? I still recall the time I had to stand on a diving board of a swimming pool in some lawyer’s back yard in Madison, WI for a performance that ended with me walking off the ‘stage’ after a drunken oaf in the pool kept splashing me while I was trying to do my act.

Another time I had to perform in the hallway of a hospital floor so people in the rooms could look out and see the show. One guy started groaning in pain, and they ended up just closing his door and telling me to ‘ignore it and finish my skit’. It was a major disaster for everyone, and I had to do thirty minutes as I remember. I’d rather be in bed as a patient.

I’ve worked on moving buses, floating boats, and on top of a picnic table in 100 degree heat at a sleazy carnival in Tucson, AZ not far from the tilt-a-whirl. Why did I attempt all these insane stunts? I needed the money. Still do. I thought I’d have it figured out by now.

Today I was asked to do a show for the business operators of Orland Hills, IL. They had a luncheon meeting and somehow word got out they wanted to hire a comedian. I heard of it from my friend Dennis Ross who lives in New Jersey of all places. How he got the gig I have no clue, but he asked if I wanted it and of course I said yes. Monday money is sweet.

That’s one day of the week most comedians don’t get paid, so any time anyone can turn a buck on a Monday, life is good. That’s the reason I host the shows at Zanies and also try to schedule comedy classes, so I can save the rest of the week for other work that doesn’t always come as often as I like. It’s a common struggle for all performers to stay working.

The people of Orland Hills were very friendly, from the mayor to the Chief of Police to all the other people who went up before me. The audience was diverse, mostly over thirty and needed to get back to work. I had to hit them hard but keep it very clean and stand on a podium with a short microphone leash and a less than stellar sound system. That’s hard.

I’ve learned to deal with these situations over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill every time. I have very high standards and if someone hires me I want to give them as good a show as humanly possible. Yes I like being paid, but I really do want to earn my money. I feel bad if anyone would feel cheated, but in these kind of gigs it’s very difficult to get a true roll going, only because there are too many obstacles in the way from having to deal with bad sound to being in a room where there are windows and sunlight shining.

The person who buys the comedian is always the one I try to please, and this time it was a very nice lady who was very easy to deal with the whole time. I know she had to present the idea to a committee, who in turn had to find some alternate choices, and then they had a vote and I won. That’s usually how it works, and I never want to let those buyers down.

If even ONE person complains, it can be a disaster for those people. I’ve gotten several over the years, but all comedians do. There’s a very fine line with some people as to what is considered entertainment and what is considered offensive. Usually the people who are the most offended are the ones who had nothing to do with the process of hiring anyone.

The mayor of Orland Hills set the tone, and luckily he was a very laid back and likeable gentleman named Kyle Hastings. He wasn’t the typical stodgy boring mayor type and he’s a natural on stage. I was glad that he brought me up, but he attended to local business first so it got to be a little longer than expected. The degree of difficulty was extremely high.

I wanted to represent Dennis Ross proudly, because he’s a good guy and didn’t have to call me for this gig. I wanted to please the lady named Karen who called me because she was very nice and booking entertainers isn’t her job. I’d hate to make her look bad. I also thought the mayor and Chief of Police were good laughers and wanted them to enjoy it.

I saw some blank looks on some of the rest of them, but I kept on going. I know most of them had never been to a comedy show before, and they had no clue I was going to be on the docket for their meeting. I don’t blame them, but I still wanted them to have some fun anyway. Nobody was mean, and I did my best. I closed on my regular closer and got off.

I usually try to stay and at least thank a few people who don’t avoid eye contact with me but today I was in a hurry to attend a meeting with the other guys in Jerry’s Kidders as we haven’t seen each other in a while as Jerry has been filling in on a big station in Toronto.

Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle live way south so as long as I was in the area it was wise for us to reconvene and reassess where we are as a group. We agreed that we’re probably in a position of transition right now and the possibility exists we could be finished as an entity especially if Jerry gets a full time job offer. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to use us up there.

We’ve still got the play “You’re On The Air” we wrote with Vicki Quade and if Jerry is not here we can still rework that, but it will take lots of time and money and effort to get a quality product polished and ready to sell. I don’t think we’re ready to do that at this time, but we definitely could do some standup shows in the WGN listening area as the Kidders.

Ken and Tim are really good guys to work with, and we all have fun doing the Kidders. We all wish we could have a steady local outlet in Chicago like we did at WLS. We were on Mondays at a set time, and even though we didn’t make money it was still a sweet gig.

We put ourselves in a position to earn money, but it never came. We were yanked off the air at WLS when Jerry got fired, and then WGN started moving Jerry all around and that in turn moved us all around. Now we’re sitting around waiting to go back and do it again.

Group Dynamics

April 9, 2010

Thursday April 8th, 2010 – Winfield, IL

Every imbecile and their aunt’s grandma is trying to slap together a group of comedians these days, thinking it will be an automatic sell. It seems to be a Sam’s Club mentality of if something is sold in bulk for a special price, it’ll fly out the door. Not necessarily true.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the group theory, even though I’ve participated in several. The first one I can think of that got noticed was “The Kings of Comedy” which consisted of Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer and Steve Harvey. They made a big splash with a tour and a film and good for them for doing it. It was a successful concept.

Then, Jeff Foxworthy used the concept to do “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour” with Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy. Again, good for Jeff. He knew he’d have a completely different audience, and he was very successful. Then, as everything that works has to endure, the avalanche of imitators trying to scarf up the scraps started popping up.

I’ve seen all kinds of ‘tours’ pop up from “Four Funny Dads” to “Pretty Funny Women” to a cow barn of others that don’t really fit together. ‘Three Funny Norwegians With The Hiccups’ isn’t necessarily a drawing card, even though people are trying to use any bit of a gimmick they can. I’m not at all opposed to gimmicks, they just have to be marketed.

Joey O’Shey has created a group concept called “The Wise Guys Of Comedy” and I like it for many reasons. One, he understands MARKETING. That’s really what all this boils down to anyway. It’s now like a band, and bands present a whole new set of rules that we as individual comedians never had to deal with before. It now becomes a group dynamic.

With group dynamics come politics and hierarchy issues, and that’s why bands break up so often. It’s not easy working together under any circumstances, especially in a situation where democratic rule is supposed to take place. It’s just not realistic to expect everybody to agree on everything, and when they don’t there needs to be a final say as to what goes.

Jerry’s Kidders has stayed together because Jerry Agar is the final say. If we’re stuck on an issue, our rule is ‘Jerry plus one vote’ to make the decision. Jerry isn’t a dictator but he does have the ultimate final say, and we all agreed to that going in. I think that’s needed.

It’s exactly what didn’t happen with The Chicago Style Standups. That was a group that never did get the leadership situation straightened out and it’s barely limping along today. Jim McHugh got out to start his “Chicago Comedy All Stars”, and he’s the leader there. It works great because we all know it, and Jim’s a good leader. I work for him quite often.

Joey put this idea together but didn’t just sit there and wait for business to come to him. He went out and had posters made up and started selling the concept of three comedians a lot like The Rat Pack that could interact with both the crowd and each other, and sold it to places that don’t normally have comedy. That’s very smart, and I’m in. We had our debut tonight at a place called Caliendo’s in Winfield, IL and everyone who came out loved it.

Is this going to be the next big thing in comedy entertainment and take the whole world by storm? I don’t think anyone could predict that, even if it was. I don’t think it will be at all, but that’s ok. Just because we’re not selling out arenas doesn’t mean we’re a failure.

It’s a lot more than that. Besides marketing, it also boils down to who’s in the show and how are they used? Joey has been doing comedy for over twenty years and chose not only me but Bill Gorgo to be a part of this. Bill and I are not only experienced, we get along on many levels. Plus, neither one of us want to be in charge of this. This is all Joey’s baby.

We all agree Joey should be paid for doing that, and so far everything has fallen exactly into place with no glitches. This is almost like three musicians forming a little combo that plays out on weekends once in a while. We all have other projects, but this is a fun aside.

Actually, Joey is working to make this THE project, and I could see it happening as he‘s very good at marketing where Bill and I really aren‘t. I’ve got my own projects to tend to, and that takes enough of my time. Bill is a high school teacher so for him it’s extra money and a chance to hang with comics. The chemistry of the three of us fits together perfectly.

That’s why I see this working, but as a sleeper project. Joey has hand picked venues that have not done comedy before, but have facilities to do shows. Some might work great and others might flop horribly, but all of us have enough experience to know how to handle it.

We’ve all been around the block so nothing rattles us, and we’re going where everyone else isn’t. I’m sure word will get out eventually and other ‘groups’ might try to horn in on this, but that’s just part of business in general. Joey is on the ball and has been working to get the word out, so he’s got a head start on the latecomers. He out hustled a lot of people.

This is how the times have dictated how comedy evolves. I hear stories of how guys out east are doing shows in smaller towns for volunteer fire department fundraisers. That may sound hick and low end, but I also hear how much money comes through these venues for the comedians. It’s WAY worth their while, and bypasses the scum bag bookers as well.

The show tonight wasn’t a killer but it wasn’t a flop either. It was a first run for a show in a place that doesn’t normally have shows. The owners loved us and want us back to do another one in the summer. With some very minor adjustments, it could be a solid money maker for everyone involved. I was willing to do a trial run on a Thursday to experiment.

I still do shows with Jim McHugh and his Chicago Comedy All Stars and in fact I have two gigs booked next week in Michigan. I also am part of Jerry’s Kidders and would do a show with those guys in a second. It never hurts to have a chance to get work anywhere.

No matter what group calls or where any of this leads, I’m still in charge of my destiny. Ultimately, I want people to come out and see me. If I’m with a group it’s fun and usually financially beneficial, but in the long run I want to have fans that enjoy what I do and are there to see me specifically. Is that being a control freak? Maybe. But that’s what I want.

Preparing To Produce Products

April 3, 2010

Friday April 2nd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Vernon Hills, IL

What better place to start than the beginning? If I intend to finish a couple of significant projects in the next six months, and I do, the first thing I needed to do was put a picture in my head of what the finished products should look like and then work backward from that to actually create something that’s as close to that image in my head as possible. So I did.

The two main projects on the docket are a book of essays about Milwaukee which I will use to create the one man show and also an online recorded version of my comedy classes that can make me money when I’m sleeping. I can tweak them later, for now I need a first run finished product of each to get the ball rolling. I want customers to rave about both.

Jerry Agar is in town this weekend from Toronto, where he’s working on the air as a fill in talk show host for a major radio station there. He has bills to pay and nobody’s angry at him, but it looks like Jerry’s Kidders aren’t going to last much longer. He may or may not get a full time job there, but it doesn’t look promising at WGN at all. He’s in a tight spot.

That’s why I’m working on my projects with such a renewed vigor. I know how it feels to have to do something for the money, and I’m not fond of it. Who is? Jerry asked if Tim Slagle and I wanted to meet up for lunch. Ken Sevara’s father is very sick and Ken’s been attending to that the last few weeks. The rest of us wanted to discuss the Kidders’ status.

On the way home I stopped at Target and bought some three ring binders so I can make up prototypes of each project I’ll be working on. For me, it helps to see a physical product in my hands that represent what I want to create. It narrows everything down into a single source, and I can cut and paste and switch things around in a binder I can’t in a notebook.

At home, I dusted off the cork boards I hung on my wall over a year ago but haven’t put to use as of yet. That’s about to change too. I quartered one off so I could use it to remind me of things I’ll need to do daily, weekly, monthly and what my finished products will be on October 1st. This is all very basic but I’m starting all over again so I needed to do it all.

I can’t stress enough that my goal is to get both of these projects DONE. I can’t waste a minute on either one, and I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for something that I can keep improving in the future, but will still do the job for customers now. Perfection is not the goal here, that’s unrealistic. I just want to crank something out I can improve later.

I need to SEE it every day, and use that reminder to keep me working on it consistently. I will take the binders with me in the car, so every time I get stuck waiting for a train or in a traffic jam I can haul it out and put a little more time in. I will do this until it’s finished.

The Milwaukee show will make money the fastest, so I decided to set aside mornings to work on that one. The comedy classes will be a long term source of revenue so that one is my afternoon focus. The main income from each will come from a single book to start off with, so that’s where I’m starting. First the outlines, then flesh them out. I see it clearly.

Life Is A Glitch

March 30, 2010

Sunday March 28th, 2010 – Novi, MI/Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Everything in my life is rapidly descending into chaos, and I can’t say I’m thrilled about any of it. It started with my computer that’s been giving me utter fits. It won’t allow me to sign on line and it says I’ve got viruses. I thought I had protection against that, but it’s not working apparently. If I can’t get online, that cripples me as far as my business life goes.

Luckily, I stayed in a fantastic Holiday Inn and Suites that had not one but a whole row of computers available for guests to use. If ever I could use one it’s now, but that doesn’t clean out the viruses on mine. If I have to buy a new computer it will really kick me in the bank roll right when I don’t need it. I have a CD at the printer to pay for and taxes as well.

I have to pay my accountant, and I’m afraid to even open the envelope with the total bill from my visit to the hospital a few weeks ago to have my knee looked at. My car’s getting ready to turn 186,000 miles and even though it’s running pretty good at the moment it just may decide to blow up in my face at any time. I’ve had to deal with that more than twice.

I know, I’m not supposed to dwell on the negative, but this is just reality. Things in life go wrong, and it becomes a timing thing. Yes, I know I could have been a whole lot better with my finances, but I wasn’t. I’m in a pickle right now, but it won’t take a whole lot for me to turn it around completely. I’m setting myself up for a chance to score in a big way.

It’s been years of paying dues to get myself in this position and I don’t want to ruin it at this crucial time. Computers can be fixed, but if I lose the data again it will be completely unnecessary. I’ve had that happen WAY too many times in the past and know what that’s like. I’ve built it all back up again and have all kinds of stuff that would kill me to lose it.

Jim McHugh and I caravanned it from Michigan to Chicago. He’s a great friend and is like the big brother I never had. He talks sense and keeps me grounded in many ways as I try to deal with my various situations. Hopefully I’m able to be a friend to him in return. I know he means well ,and we make each other laugh at times when we both need it most.

I made it back to Chicago to do a radio segment with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN at 5pm. I don’t see that project going anywhere right now and that’s very frustrating. Jerry isn’t full time there and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever be in the future either. That doesn’t help us at a time when we all could use at least a little stability in our lives. I think we may be done.

I don’t have the time or energy to keep doing half ass willy nilly appearances at the drop of a hat on short notice. Fun is fun, and we have lots of it, but the cost is getting to be way too much with no signs of a payoff any time soon. We have to get ourselves more defined in our own mind so we know what we’re selling. Nobody seems to be buying who we are.

The Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha is going to be changing too. One of our co-hosts Diane asked for some time off and I can’t fault her for that. She’s got a lot of things on her plate right now. I get that. I do too. My main red flag is with the computer.

Paying A Bill

March 29, 2010

Saturday March 27th, 2010 – Dearborn, MI/Novi, MI

Life is still pretty good even though the show last night was weak. We’re booked in the space that used to be occupied by Second City apparently and they’re gone after a several year run. My friend Vicki Quade has her one woman show “Late Night Catechism” in the room and she had mentioned she thought Jerry’s Kidders should try to get a booking too.

I didn’t know that’s what it was when I took the booking, and quite frankly I think I’m getting boned on money. The agency that booked me is in the south, and I don’t work for them all that often unless they have work in the north. They asked me to do this one and I said I would. Mistake. I found out they’re making more than me with their commission.

This kind of thing goes on all the time in show business but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. They asked if I wanted a gig this weekend and I said yes. End of story. If it means they get three times more than they’re paying me, technically it’s none of my bee’s wax. Too bad life isn’t always technical. Sometimes it’s gut feelings and mine got kicked.

Still, if I turned this down, there would have been hundreds of comics proud to take my place so I just shut up and did my job. Last night was not fun at all, but tonight’s audience came out to laugh. They were well dressed and polite and the house was packed out wall to wall. I knew I’d like them in the first ten seconds, and I kept it up throughout my show.

They were fun but the real fun was seeing to it my friend Bill Mihalic got up to do a few minutes to open the show. He’s a comedy writer and has been at it for years, but now he’s trying to branch out a little. I’ve never met a more diligent and sincere person in any walk of life and if I can give the guy hope I’ll always do my best. Bill Mihalic is good people.

In fact, this afternoon he came over to the hotel and drove me to take another tour of the Automotive Hall of Fame. I’ve been there before with Bill because he’s a member and we had fun then. He’s very knowledgeable, and served as a fantastic tour guide for all the ins and outs of the car business for the last 100 years. Bill’s a student of the whole car game.

After that we went to the Henry Ford Museum and looked at that for a while. It’s had to be at least a dozen years or more since I’d seen it and it was totally work the trip just for a chance to tour it again. Bill is a masterful tour host and knows all kinds of inside scoops.

The show tonight was a lot of fun, but getting to put Bill up on stage was the true high point of the trip. Stage time is like Christmas to an aspiring comic and the was a Saturday night full house that paid to get in. I saw Bill’s eyes light up when I said he was going up and that made me feel like I did my good deed for the day. I’ve had that look many times.

He did a fine job, and afterward I could tell he had fun. It’s hard to get someone to give stage time to a beginner, but I know what it’s like so I always try to be generous whenever I can. I had a little clout tonight so I made sure he got up. Not a big deal to me, but to Bill it made his whole week. This is what life is about to me. I want to work for good people.