Posts Tagged ‘Jim Wiggins’

My Own Space

June 24, 2014

Sunday June 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m back from my bittersweet weekend in Sparta, WI and am ready to move forward. It’s fun to visit good friends, and Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo are as good as they get. Jim’s family treats Bill and I like we’re in the will, but on the down side doing difficult shows for tiny audiences is a self esteem sucker and a dignity drainer. At this time in my life I just don’t need to be doing this.

Jim and Bill get it. They’ve been doing comedy for decades just as I have, and they know how I feel. Bill has been a high school teacher for years now, and has already made his transition into being able to do comedy when he feels like it. It works for him. I’m not so sure it works for me.

Jim could see that I was less than thrilled with the shows this weekend, and he took me aside at least four or five times to strongly suggest that I find my own space and start promoting my own shows. He said it should be a place where I can live as well so all my energy can stay in one spot. He’s done it himself more than once, and said it can be an exciting experience plus creative bliss.

There’s a comedian named Chris Speyrer that did exactly what Jim speaks of in the small town of Mason City, IL. That’s the home town of another funny comic named John Means – aka “Dr. Gonzo.” John and his wife owned a restaurant on the main drag, and Chris bought a building on the same block and has been able to keep the doors open several years now. I congratulate him.

Mason City is tiny, but it’s within driving distance of Peoria and Springfield and Chris books a lot of his headliners from the Bob and Tom radio show which is on in both of those cities. He has been smart to do that, and kudos to him for taking the plunge. That took a lot of guts on his part.

I’m not sure if a town that small would be to my personal liking, but there are all kinds of other options in a lot of other places. I have been wondering for years now how I could get off the road but still get on stage regularly, and my own place would be a way to do it. It would solve a lot of problems – but create a lot more. I’m fine with that at this point, and would enjoy the challenge.

I don’t know if I can find a place that I can live as well as do shows, as everything would have to be ideal for that to happen. I don’t have any money to buy any buildings, but that’s never been my goal. I just want to do standup comedy shows on a regular basis for people that want to enjoy what I do. I don’t want to have to fight drunks or drive 1000 miles to get there. Does that exist?

Between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford, I have to believe there has to be at least one facility that would be able to fit my needs. Ideally it would seat around 100 comfortably, and in theory I’d be able to work there every single week of the year for several years if I’d want to.

If I could attract audiences, why would I not want to? I’ve said before that 100 people a night for multiple nights in a week can provide a very nice living. I’m not greedy, and I wouldn’t need anything else to survive quite nicely. In an area that’s populated, it would take years for everyone to see the show in a 100 seat room and I could keep it going indefinitely. Mr. Wiggins was right.

I see this theory both in Milwaukee for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and somewhere near the Chicago area that’s not near a Zanies club. I wouldn’t attempt to compete with them because for one I couldn’t, and also they have been great to me for a lifetime. There are plenty of other joints in that squared circle, and I’m up for trying to get my own thing going. If I had two dozen in my own audience, there would be only one person to blame. That I could live with. I like Jim’s idea!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought a building and started his own venue. Smart!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought his own building and started his own comedy venue. Smart!

If you are ever near Mason City, IL go see his club. www.mclimits.com

If you’re ever near Mason City, IL visit Chris’s club. http://www.mclimits.com

Bigger Fish Ahead

June 23, 2014

Saturday June 21st, 2014 – West Salem, WI

The times, they are a changin’. I can’t believe how drastic the changes are, and my entire life is being rattled to the core. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are always aftershocks to have to deal with. Things that used to be a constant in life no longer are and it all takes getting used to.
This weekend I am doing a two night run of renegade commando style comedy shows with two of my all time favorite friends and comedians, Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo. I think the world and a few other planets of both of those guys onstage and off, and I would hang with them anytime.

Jim is a cancer survivor, and is coming back strong after recent surgery that left him without a bladder. He can’t travel like he once did, and his son Josh volunteered to approach local places in the area of Sparta, WI where they live to set up shows. Josh is in his 30s and has known Bill for most of his life. Jim and Bill were roommates in Chicago for years, and they’re close like family.

They have graciously brought me into the mix, and I’m flattered to be a part of it. We’ve done several shows in the past couple of years, and some have been better than others. It’s not easy to set up a comedy show, and a lot of things have to happen on many levels for it all to go correctly.

The venue has to be behind it from the start, and willing to promote from within. Most never do even close to what it takes, and then wonder why there’s nobody there on the night of the show. I can’t count the number of half baked productions I’ve been a part of, but I know I’ve had my fill.

Unfortunately, this trip added two more to that list. Last night we did a supper club near Sparta, and tonight it was a bowling alley in West Salem. Both venues were able to seat close to 100, but I don’t think we had more than 25-30 each night. Last night’s audience was mostly Josh’s wife’s family, and although they were outstanding laughers it didn’t hide the fact someone lost their ass.

I never like to see that happen, but unfortunately it rarely if ever has to. If a venue owner would listen to a promoter’s input and take the proper steps, there could be a full house where everyone is able to make a buck. It’s never an easy buck, and that’s where most venue owners get fooled.

They think by putting up a poster in their own place “word will get out”. NO. They have to put effort into promotion, just as they’d need to if they had karaoke, pool leagues or a new sandwich on their food menu. Live comedy is just the opportunity to promote something that is hopefully a unique product in their area. If done correctly it can be a consistent money maker for a long time.

These last two nights just weren’t it. Going into details as to why won’t change the fact that the ball was dropped somewhere. I don’t want to point fingers, as I’m past the point of dealing with all of this. I don’t need to be on stage that badly to suffer through such humiliation. I don’t think Jim and Bill agree. They had fun, and that’s great. I had fun being with them – but not the shows.

Between the three of us, we’ve got well over 100 years of hard earned hands on experience. To labor in front of 25 people a night just isn’t my idea of fun these days. We’re all beyond it. I love those guys and Josh too, but it would have been more fun to ride up and just visit without shows.

We got paid, but I still feel unfulfilled. In the past, I’d clench my jaw and keep slugging. Now, I really don’t care. I don’t need approval from anyone else. I would much rather handle my own business. It takes the pressure off. I want to cast for bigger fish, and this isn’t where they swim.

Jim Wiggins is a cancer survivor and one of the most experienced comedians walking the planet. He deserves to perform for full houses of loyal fans. www.lasthippie.com.

Jim Wiggins is a cancer survivor and one of the most experienced comedians walking the planet. He deserves to perform for full houses of loyal fans – and I’m a big one. http://www.lasthippie.com.

Bill Gorgo has paid his dues as well. He's very funny, and I'm a big fan of his onstage and off.

Bill Gorgo has paid his dues as well. He’s very funny, and I’m a big fan of his as well.

Healing With Humor

November 13, 2013

Monday November 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

This has been a rough year health wise for more than a few of my friends. It’s been no polka in the park for me either having to deal with my recent kidney stone, but that’s nothing compared to what some other people I know have had to face. Many are comedians, and it doesn’t seem right.

I would think since comedians provide a service to humankind we’d get some sort of free pass, but we aren’t exempt from the same health horrors everyone else faces. Sometimes it even seems like we get it worse, which I could never understand. There are a lot of people I know suffering.

Jim Wiggins had cancer surgery just a couple of months ago, and he’s having to get used to life with no prostate or bladder. He is now cancer free which is something to celebrate, but that came with one hell of a price. He’s recovering nicely from what I hear, and hopes to work again soon.

Scot Wickmann is another comedian friend who has been dealing with health issues for a long time. He has been on kidney dialysis for quite a while, and recently he had triple bypass surgery. That’s serious enough, but apparently there was an infection and he had to have more surgery.

Bill Gorgo has been getting updates from Scot’s wife Jackie, and she said Scot just had one of two more surgeries he needs and everything went smoothly. He had an abscess on an artery, and that sounds frightening. I don’t have details and the last thing I ever want to do is bother Jackie.

The bottom line is, even if his next surgery goes well he’ll be lucky to be out of the hospital by Christmas. Crikey. I thought the eight or nine days I spent in the hospital for my surgery in 2011 was horrific – and it was. I can’t begin to imagine having to be in a hospital bed for six weeks.

Again, my problems really aren’t problems compared to what Jim and Scot and so many others are going through, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of them. There are a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to help comfort them if I can. It’s all about human kindness.

All that actually matters in life is what we are able to give – especially to those that truly are in need. What could I do myself or help to organize that will make someone’s life even a little more pleasant when there’s a long road of recovery ahead? There has to be some way of reaching out.

I was delighted to be able to organize the big benefit comedy show last October for Milwaukee Police Officer Josh Albert after he was almost killed by a drunk driver going the opposite way on a freeway on ramp. His injuries were beyond a nightmare, but we were able to assist financially.

Peter Jest of Shank Hall in Milwaukee donated the hall, and the all comedians donated our time to perform. Drew Olson was a fabulous host that night, and Officer Albert’s work partner and my cousin Katie Anderer and her whole family got the word out to make it a success. We received a blanket of media coverage as well, and it ended up being a successful event that helped someone.

That’s what life is about. Period. I know we all need to pay our bills, but after that it’s what we are able to give that has any lasting meaning. Seeing my personal friends having to endure all of the personal hell they’ve been through makes me want to jump up and take action to help them.

But what could that be? I’d like it to be comedy related somehow, but I don’t think doing a live show is the answer. I would gladly volunteer to do it in a second if that would help, but it doesn’t strike me as the solution. I think there needs to be something that is able to reach more shut ins.

Scot Wickmann is going to be laid up in bed for a while. Even if he wanted to see a live show I doubt if he could make it unless they wheeled his bed right into the performance area. I’d be fine with it, but I can’t see it happening. A room full of beds with people from ICU would be silly.

It’s hard enough to be funny in a traditional comedy setting, but this would be off the charts to try and pry laughs out of hospital patients. That’s not what I had in mind. I would like to create a product that could be used to touch people depending on their condition, and that’s a wide scope.

One idea I had would be to interview comedians who have endured health issues, and try to put a comedic perspective on things that as a rule aren’t funny. When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice there are a lot of potentially funny events that only someone who has experienced them could relate to. I bet it would be of great comfort to have a video for new patients to watch.

There has to be a way to produce a video of comedians telling their hospital stories, and have it run on a constant loop on one of the hospital TV channels. I’d bet there could be several releases over time, as a lot of comedians have stories. I’m sure some celebrities would jump on board too.

David Letterman went through major heart surgery a while back, and I’m sure that gave him an abundance of stories that are a lot funnier now that he’s fully recovered. Sometimes it seems like the situation is overwhelming while in the hospital, and something to offer comfort would help to put a patient’s mind at ease. I remember how I felt when I was laying there and it was a bad trip.

Another idea I’d love to pursue would be establishing a humor library in all hospitals so people could watch and listen to comedy as they recover. It could be standup comedy CDs and DVDs or funny movies or even written publications like Mad magazine or comic books. It could help pass the time for patients, and even the employees could use it. I’m sure a medical staff has stress too.

I realize that these are all pie in the sky dreams, but I want to put it out there in the universe so hopefully someone else will see it and act on it. Even if it’s bouncing an idea back at me, I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward however I can. This is an idea that has no time restrictions.

We always see photo ops where celebrity athletes go in and meet sick kids in the hospital, and I think that’s a great thing don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more of it, but what better source of cheering people up who need it is there than comedians. This would be a way to really be of use.

I think this would be a great place to develop the King of Uranus character. It’s so goofy that it can’t help to at least get the attention of somebody in a sick bed and take their mind off their pain for the moment. One way or another, I really want to reach out and make a hurting person laugh.

Hearing of Scot’s current situation and Jim’s recent issues has brought this idea to the forefront of my thoughts. It would be a great opportunity to match comedians with recovering patients and I’m going to keep thinking of what I can do to get this ball rolling. Service is what life is about.

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

Cancer No More

October 18, 2013

Thursday October 10th, 2013 – Sparta, WI

In all my years of gallivanting around North America, I can only recall a couple of times when my schedule happened to work out conveniently. I am notorious for having horrific routing over most of my career, and the stress from it has probably already shaved some years off of my life.

I’ve got some more coming up in a couple of days, but for now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve got a show tomorrow night in LaCrosse, WI and that allowed me to take a ride to Sparta, WI with my friend Bill Gorgo to visit our mutual friend Jim Wiggins on his birthday. It was a special birthday for Jim as he was just released from a nine day hospital stint after having major surgery.

If anyone can relate to the misery of nine days in the hospital it’s me. That’s how long I had to rot when I was in for my own surgery in 2011. It seems like two lifetimes ago now, but it was an unexpected obstacle in an already difficult life. I wasn’t expecting it, and it changed me forever.

Other than total financial disaster, I’m much better for it today. My type 2 diabetes is in check, and I could have easily lost all my plumbing. Any time a man has his junk sliced up like sushi it gets his undivided attention. ‘Testicle’ is a funny word – unless it involves surgery on one’s own.

I’m just now getting to a point where I can talk about it freely on stage. I’ve done it a few times and it’s gotten mixed responses. There’s a fine line between comedy and sympathy and there has to be just the right mixture of funny in place to get laughs rather than ‘oohs’ – or stunned silence.

I’m still working on it, and hopefully I’ll be around a while longer to polish it into a closing bit. Anytime severe discomfort and someone else’s genitals are involved, it’s always a guaranteed hit with a crowd. ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ has proven it for years. Nothing follows a crotch hit.

Jim Wiggins had a crotch hit of his own as he had his prostate and bladder removed. That’s not funny in the least, but life plays no favorites – even with comedians. It’s our job to find the funny in a lot of things that don’t seem glib on the surface, and I have no doubt Jim will use this as fuel for future routines. We can’t help it. A true comedian always looks for funny in every situation.

Sometimes that’s what keeps us going. Life can be downright frightening, and if anyone could come even close to relating what Jim was feeling it was me. He had a lot more done than I had to have, but I know how lonely and intimidating it can be laying alone in a hospital bed waiting for some stranger to carve into your bean bag like dark meat on a turkey. It makes sleep impossible.

I wanted to make sure I saw Jim on his birthday, but Bill and I weren’t sure if he would still be in the hospital or not. His hospital was in LaCrosse, so either way we knew we’d see him but it’s much better that he was at home. He was tired and moving slow, but he looked remarkably good. We didn’t know what to expect, but he exceeded our expectations. We were just glad to see him.

The best news of all is that he’s now cancer free. He had gone through three painful bouts with chemo, and that’s now over with. Now the thing to focus on is healing, and Bill and I focused on that as we sat and visited. Jim eventually nodded off to sleep, but I knew he was glad we showed up. I was glad we did too. For once my routing made it possible for me to be in the right place.

Comedian Jim Wiggins 'The Last Hippie In America' no longer has cancer! www.lasthippie.com

Comedian Jim Wiggins ‘The Last Hippie In America’ no longer has cancer! http://www.lasthippie.com

No Guarantees

September 28, 2013

Friday September 27th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I had a tentative gig booked for tonight that was what’s known in the business as a “door deal”. That means the performer gets to keep an agreed upon percentage of the cover charges collected at the door. In this case, I was to get 100% which is as good as a door deal gets. I was optimistic.

The venue held roughly 100 people, and the cover charge was $10 per person. On paper, I had a chance to make a decent payday – not to mention a chance to sell some merchandise. The joint was in an affluent area, and they’ve only tried comedy shows once before. I thought I’d gamble.

What I didn’t plan for was the place closing down completely, which is exactly what happened. I called to confirm on Monday, and was told that they were going out of business abruptly and of course that meant my show was cancelled. I was counting on making at least a little bit of money for the week, but now it’s a total loss. September has been brutal, and has totally wiped me out.

I’m to the point now I can barely put gas in my car. I’ve got work coming up in the next three months, but that doesn’t do me much good right now and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel to make it day to day. I never thought I’d be this low this late into it, but that’s how it’s turned out.

There are a variety of odd circumstances that put me here, and many of them are plain old bad breaks. Woulda, coulda, shoulda isn’t going to change anything, but I sure am in the trick bag for the time being. I’m working hard every day to get myself out of this rut, and I could use a break.

Then just when I thought I was in a bad way, I heard that some comedian friends of mine are in a whole lot worse shape than me. Scot Wickmann is a Chicago comedian I worked with steadily for a few years when I was with a group called Chicago Style Standups. I knew him long before that from the comedy trail, and we always got along well. He was just a guy out making a living.

I was surprised to hear Scot had triple bypass surgery this week, and it made me sad. Scot has had quite a few health problems over the years, and I never wish that on anyone. He’s a diabetic and also has been on kidney dialysis for several years. That sounds extremely painful, but after I got out of the hospital with my own type 2 diabetes diagnosis Scot was right there to help me.

He brought me to the hospital he goes to for his dialysis, bought me lunch and introduced me to his dietician who joined us and made suggestions on how I can change my diet to improve my condition. That was unbelievably nice of him, and I never forgot it. He didn’t have to do all that.

I’ve tried to keep in touch with Scot and a lot of my other friends – comedians or not – but it’s a daunting task with how hectic life gets most of the time. Who has time to connect by telephone much less in person? Time slips away from all of us, and weeks become months become years.

I also received some sad news that another comedian friend Jim Wiggins is going in for cancer surgery in a week. There’s another comic well liked and respected in the business. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Jim, but he and Scot are suffering miserably while boils on the face of the Earth like Charles Manson and so many others are pictures of health. I just don’t get it, but it seems to happen all the time. I’m sad my gig got cancelled, but even more so for Scot and Jim.

Scot Wickmann "The Married Man" - if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Scot Wickmann “The Married Man” – if you pray, please offer something up. Triple bypass surgery is no joke.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

Jim Wiggins can use some prayers and good vibes too.

What’s An Enviromedian?

May 28, 2013

Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

  Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.

   I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.

   I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk – even though nobody can figure out why.

   For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.

   Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.

   Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.

    I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.

   Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.

   Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.

   I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.

The Enviromedian is BACK!

The Enviromedian is BACK!

James Wesley Jackson

James Wesley Jackson

A Wasted Weekend

May 18, 2013

Friday May 17th, 2013 – Sparta, WI/Fox Lake, IL

   Here we go again. Three hideous words I’ve never wanted any part of have showed up to party with me this weekend – ‘worst case scenario’. I’m all too familiar with them, and they’re like the weirdo group of relatives we all have that make us cringe every time they come over for a visit.

   In a nutshell, I cancelled two solid dates of work this weekend to instead work with my friends Bill Gorgo and Jim Wiggins in what was supposed to be a two night booking near Minneapolis. I adore both of those guys, and we were all looking forward to a stellar weekend onstage and off.

   As it happened, the booker of the shows we were allegedly scheduled for didn’t have any hotel rooms for us and was counting on us staying in some sort of one room frat shack or something. If there’s one thing comedians are used to, it’s being put up in a hotel. It may not be the Hilton and it usually isn’t, but we don’t as a rule have to bunk up like cowboys on the range. We get a room.

   One thing apparently led to another, and Jim ended up pulling the plug on the whole thing. I do see why he did it, but it also left a gaping hole in all of our schedules – mine not only for a week but for the month. I was counting on money this weekend, and now not only won’t I make a cent – it cost out of pocket to split gas with Bill. No gig means no chance to sell DVDs or CDs either.

   I’m not so much angry as frustrated and just plain tired of dealing with small time flea bookers where this is even an issue. The three of us combined probably have close to 100 years of service and to have this kind of stuff go on this late into the game is not right. It’s disrespectful to us all.

  That guy would have gotten three solid headliners – two with national TV credits. Jim has done two ‘Tonight Show’ spots and I’ve been on Craig Ferguson. Bill is a solid act, and can headline a club with the best of them. We only took the gig because we wanted to spend time with our good friend Jim who happens to be going through extremely painful chemotherapy for the third time.    

   This whole situation stinks, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I could have blown up at the booker or even Jim, but what would that prove? I’ve tried that angle more than once, and it’s not the way to handle things. I found that out the hard way, and ended up badly burning bridges.  

   This is no time to be burning bridges with anyone. What it is is time to smarten up and improve my way of doing business. In retrospect, I had gigs booked for this weekend and when Jim asked if I was open I should have politely said no. I love him like few other comedian friends, but I am really in a pickle because of this. We could have come for a visit any one of too many off days.

   We did have some quality face time together as Jim bought us a delicious lunch at a local joint near his house in Sparta WI, but that was the most expensive free lunch I’ve had in years. We all lost out, and no matter how much fun we had hanging out the fact remains our wallets are empty.

   Part of the problem is we as comedians often get used to being treated like whipped puppies by bully club owners, and we choose to accept it rather than make waves and possibly lose work for any reason. Another part is we don’t enjoy the booking part of the business. We’re performers.

   Unfortunately, we’re going to have to change in a hurry or insanity like this will keep popping up out of the blue and making life very unpleasant. I love Bill and Jim, but from now on I’ll have to love them under more stable circumstances. I’m disappointed – and my creditors will be also.

Comedy Conquers Cancer

September 24, 2012

Saturday September 23rd, 2102 – Sparta, WI

   If life could get any more fun than I had today, I bet I’d have to pay a serious cover charge. It’s days like this that will hopefully put a smile on my face should I be lucky enough to survive long enough to make it into a nursing home. I’ll drool into my yogurt cup thinking about the fun I had on stage working with the people I liked the most. Today will be a day I will use as the standard.

Bill Gorgo, Tim Walkoe and I were booked in Sparta, WI along with our friend Jim Wiggins to do a cancer benefit set up by Jim’s son Josh. It was held at a bowling alley of all places in a very well set up banquet room that had a seating capacity of 330 – and I didn’t see any of them empty.

Josh worked extremely hard organizing the evening, and even hand built the stage we stood on. His wife Amy decorated the stage area with a huge backdrop, and everyone in town pitched in to make the event a huge success. I’ve seen nights like this totally tank it, as everyone drops the ball by not doing what they say they’ll do. Not tonight. This was one of the best run events I’ve seen.

Everyone in the comedy world adores Jim Wiggins. You can’t help but love him, as his energy precedes him into a room like cheap perfume on an ugly stripper. Jim is a giant of a soul, and his warmth is contagious to everyone around him. Everywhere he goes, he’s a magnet for people on all levels from other comedians to wait staff in restaurants to audiences at his shows. It’s magic.

Jim has survived cancer two times now, and has just been informed it’s back. He will be going through the ugliness of chemo yet again, but he’s got the balls of a burglar about facing it. He is an inspiration to everyone, and that’s why we all wanted to be a part of this show out of respect.

This was an absolutely stellar lineup of comedians, and to make it even more fun Steve Purcell drove up from Madison to hang out and be a part of it. Steve has worked with all of us and is on everyone’s list of favorite people. He took my comedy class at Zanies years ago, and is a shining example of why I teach them. He’s funny and classy and having him there added to the evening.

To really put the whole night over the top, Jim was surprised by his daughter who flew in from Colorado Springs to surprise him. Nobody knew she was coming, and it was emotional to watch Jim’s reaction when he saw her. There’s a lot of love there from his kids, and that’s something I just can’t relate to unfortunately. I never experienced anything even close to that with my father.

The vibe in the room was red hot from the start of the show right to the end. Tim and Bill and I rocked the house, but we’ve all got decades of experience and knew what to do. Steve did a guest set and knocked that out of the park as well – but we all knew this was Jim’s night and wanted to let him enjoy his moment. He was magnificent, and he did it in front of his kids, friends and fans.

Hanging out with fellow comedians can be one of the sweetest feelings there is, because we are all tuned in to the same wavelength. We don’t have to edit anything for the public, and the laughs in situations like that are pure and uncut. We had a night of them onstage and off, and I know we all will remember this for a long time to come. Find Jim at www.lasthippie.com. He’s worth it.