Posts Tagged ‘Jim Peck’

A Magic Evening

May 8, 2013

Monday May 6th, 2013 – Pewaukee, WI

   Tonight I was asked to be part of a mini symposium for of all things magicians, and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had in a very long time. My friend Lynn Miner is a magician of the highest order, and he helped put together this event along with our mutual friend Jim Peck.

   Any time I can hang with Lynn and Jim I do it, but this was a special treat. Lynn asked Jim and me to speak to a group of area magicians about our experiences in the entertainment business and maybe relate a couple of stories that might pertain to them. They were into us and made it easy to fill the two hours for which we were scheduled and then some after that. Time flew very quickly.

   Jim Peck is an amazing talent. He’s got natural charisma, a strong presence and razor sharp wit and it’s no surprise he was a network game show host for years. It may sound like an insult to be called a game show host, but far from it. It’s not an easy job, and only a few can do it correctly.

   I remember watching Jim on Channel 4 in Milwaukee growing up. He did some news reporting and interviewing and was very good at that, and then he got his network break. We crossed paths through Lynn a while back when both were simultaneously working with Marquette University.

   It’s amazing how knowing someone from TV or radio can have a lasting effect. I now consider Jim to be a friend, but I still can’t help be a little star struck every time we get together. I can still remember him from both local TV and his game show days, and there’s still an aura of celebrity.

   He shared some killer stories about interviewing Barbara Walters and all kinds of other famous people, and I sat there like everyone else and was enthralled. I have a few stories of my own, and together it made for a program that by all accounts was a huge hit. I’d love to do this more often.

   The event was held at a place called “Big Guy’s Magic Shop” in Pewaukee, WI and “Big Guy” is quite sharp and on the ball. He’s got a beautiful well stocked shop, and has more than a clue as to how to promote himself and his events. His website is www.bigguysmagic.com and one of his listed specialties is ‘fart bombs’. One should never be far from being able to obtain a fart bomb.

   I happen to enjoy magic and magicians as a fan, even though a lot of comedians I know tend to look down upon it all as being less than ‘pure’. With many standups, anything short of that is not respected and it includes magic, ventriloquism and especially juggling. They’re all ‘bastard arts’.

   I can see where comedians would think that, but to many improvisers and actors comedians are the ones looked down upon. Second City in Chicago for years has looked down on standups, but I never got into all of that. Any form of entertainment done well is difficult, and nothing is better or worse than the other in my opinion. I happen to do standup comedy, but I respect everything.

   Jim said something in his presentation with which I totally agree. He said he enjoyed watching magicians work, and didn’t want to know how the tricks were done. I’m the same way. I’ll enjoy the performance thoroughly if the performer is entertaining, but I have no desire to have to know how the trick itself was done. I’m a fan of the entertainment process. The gimmick is secondary.

   This was a really fun night all around, and I made some new friends in the magic world. All of the attendees were nice people, and made Jim and I feel like big stars. Lynn did a fantastic job in hosting the event and working with Big Guy to get the word out, and it was well spent evening.

A Loyal Soldier

March 27, 2013

Tuesday March 26th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   My busy week continues as I had to be in Milwaukee today to promote the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up sooner than later and also help judge the final round of a karaoke contest being held at the Potawatomi Casino Fire Keepers sports bar. I was flattered they asked, and I said yes.

I have an overwhelming feeling of confidence about how this project is going, and I can feel it becoming a big hit. I’ve been involved with more than my share of flops in my time, and this just doesn’t share the same characteristics. I can feel a positive buzz building, and it feels euphoric.

I’m really excited to be working at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. I cannot say enough good things about that venue, and it’s just a perfect fit from all angles. The customers for my show are the exact same group the casino is going for, and this should be a perfect match.

Once word gets out there’s a funny local show that isn’t dirty, I know I’ll be able to stretch this out for years to come should I choose to do so. My biggest issue was getting the word out, but no more. Potawatomi has a very strong media presence, and they are getting behind me all the way.

Today I recorded a radio interview for WTMJ that will air this Sunday. There’s no way WTMJ would put me on the air as some Joe Shmoe local comic who came up with a half baked show in his basement, but with the Northern Lights Theatre behind it I have total and needed credibility.

It also didn’t hurt that the interview was hosted by my friend Jim Peck. Jim is a talented radio and TV host originally from Milwaukee who went on to be a big success hosting game shows on network TV. I have always been a fan of Jim’s, and am a bigger one now that I know him in real life. He’s got a razor sharp wit and is truly hilarious. He’s a pro’s pro and he made me look great.

Also with me in the interview was Bob Rech, the Entertainment Director for Potawatomi. He’s another guy I like and respect, and he totally knows what he’s doing. He’s not just giving me this run because he has nothing better to do though. He sees the potential this has for everyone in it.

Joe San Felippo of Bonkers Comedy Clubs is also someone in the mix. Joe has booked all the standup comedy shows at the theatre for years, and that’s how I got in. Joe and Bob put together solid shows, and have always been fans of mine and in my corner. I couldn’t be more grateful to both of them, and that’s why my first choice is to have the show have a home base here forever.

I’m a loyal soldier, even in a business where that’s not always common. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and I have worked together more than twenty years without a hiccup, and I’d love to establish a longstanding relationship with Potawatomi too. I’m not looking to start any turf wars.

All I want is a place to call performing home. I want to make a fair living, and I want the venue to make a fair profit too. This is a team effort, and I’m happy to have Bob and Joe and everybody at Potawatomi on the same team. Judging the karaoke show was a lot of fun, and there were quite a few talented performers on the bill. Now it’s off to Atlanta to be in the Laughing Skull Festival.

One More Tomorrow

October 3, 2010

Thursday September 30th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL/Milwaukee, WI

The big debut is almost here. Tomorrow is the grand opening of the ‘Schlitz Happened’ show at the Schauer Center in Hartford, WI and I have mixed emotions about it. I’m very excited on one hand for the opportunity to do it, but on the other I know it’s not ready yet.

Unfortunately, the only way to get it ready is to get up on that stage tomorrow and do it. Then I need to do it again after tomorrow. And then again after that. And again and again,  whenever and wherever I can. The only way to make anything better is to keep doing it.

I can see myself really having a hit with this idea, even though it’s got a distinctly local audience. I know I’ll be able to plug right in with a certain group, but I don’t know where to take them when I do. What’s the structure? I don’t have one yet, and it will take time to build one that works consistently. I’ve got a lot of ingredients, but no working recipe yet.

I’ll have to fly by the seat of my pants, adding a pinch of this and a dash of that until it’s to my liking. More importantly, it has to be to the audience’s liking. I’ve got enough stage experience to not embarrass myself, but I know how I am. I don’t want to just squeak by.

My goal is to blow those people right off their chairs, through the solid steel doors and out into the parking lot. I want them to laugh so hard we’ll need paramedics to be on duty to nurse people back to health. I hope FEMA has to send helicopters to restore the peace.

I know I’m not going to get any of that, and it will probably bother me a little no matter how it goes. Realistically, I predict it will go fine. That particular audience is very polite, and last time it was a fantastic evening. I have no reason to believe this one won’t match it, but last time I had a full arsenal of polished standup bits to do. This time it’s different.

I may do just a few of the same bits, but not many. This isn’t billed as a standup show, it’s a one man show about growing up in Milwaukee. I want to have as much local stuff in it as I can, but also some personal stories of my childhood – of which all are not funny.

I’m not looking to make it a therapy session, but I do want to share some very amazing stories that I know will be fascinating for ‘normal’ people to hear. They have been on the street all these years, not I have to take them to the stage. It’s very delicate, but that’s the extra ingredient that will put this over the top and give it some teeth. It will be worth it.

There’s no doubt I’ll figure out how to put it all together eventually, but it sure won’t be by tomorrow night. I can’t over think it either. I suppose I could plan and study and try to practice, but I know that won’t do me any good. I need to go up there and let it flow from my heart, and get it out of me as a raw nugget, something I can then shape into a show.

This is a very advanced concept, and is even more difficult than just doing standup on a regular basis. That’s hard enough to pull off, now I’m trying to add emotional strings too? What am I, a total masochist or just a plain old garden variety idiot? Maybe some of both.

Either way, it’s too late to turn back now and I’m going to do this no matter what. This is one of the tradeoffs of being an entertainer. NO performer is ever really ready for their ‘next step’, but if we don’t just go out and do it nobody would ever grow. Every surgeon has to do their first operation and every pilot has to make their first flight. You just do it.

The key is to not do it in a place that can cause harm to anyone. If a surgeon does a bad operation, someone can lose their life. If a comedian does a bad show, it’s not that big of a risk to the audience. They’re just out the price of a ticket and an hour and a half of time.

If they’re really upset, they can demand their money back and if the act was truly as bad as they thought, they’ll most likely get it. The risk is with the comedian. If he or she has a bad show in a certain venue, the distinct possibility does exist that will be their last show.

This is part of the reason I got so heated with those two guys at Zanies recently. It won’t hurt the audience if they’re not ready and have a bad show, but it could really hurt both of those guys if Bert Haas were to see them bomb. It would set a level in his eyes that would be very difficult to change. They’d be in the amateur category a lot longer than necessary.

Bert has the power to book three Zanies clubs in Chicago, which is what every comic in town would like to be able to put on their calendar every year. Going in to try out before a person is ready is committing career-o-cide. Why do people still do it? They don’t think.

I’ve made and seen so many mistakes over the years that I’ve thought this through a lot. I know what I’m getting into, and there are distinct plusses and minuses that won’t be any surprise. One of the minuses is I’ll have to start over from almost ground zero to build up a really solid show that’s about Milwaukee and my experiences there. That will take time.

What will also make it work is local media exposure. This morning I got on B93.3 with Jane And C.V., and I was grateful to get it. It’s one of the rare morning radio shows in the country with two female leads, and I’m glad to see it. They’re both very competent talents and deserve to be working. I’m glad they have a job, but I’m sure not as glad as they are.

Jane Matanaer has been in the market for years, and she’s an outstanding talent. What a voice, and a sweetheart of a person to boot. She’s always been a big supporter of mine, so it was no surprise she agreed to plug the show. C.V. is from Iowa, but I met her when she used to work at another station in town and she’s cool too. It was fun being on with them.

After that, I had breakfast with my friends Lynn Miner and Jim Peck. Lynn is another of a long list of former students who have become lifelong friends, and Jim Peck had me on his TV show a few years ago and we’ve stayed in touch. He’s a world class broadcaster.

Jim used to host network game shows, and is absolutely hilarious. He’s got a dry sense of humor and his mind is brilliant. He makes me laugh out loud, but he’s also very smart when it comes to business. I want to have people like Jim and Lynn around to consult for ideas as to how to build this idea into a profitable franchise for years to come. Here goes.