Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy McHugh’

It Takes A Champion

June 26, 2014

Tuesday June 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

If I have learned nothing else from my life’s long twisted journey, it’s that making one’s living exclusively as an entertainer for any significant amount of time is nothing less than a big old, icy cold, rock hard, unforgiving, unrelenting, cruel, nasty, fire breathing seven days a week BITCH.

Anyone that has lasted more than ten years has my undying respect, and then there are the lifer types like me that have gone past any and all ‘normal’ boundaries, and find ourselves desperately hanging on for dear life from week to week despite having sacrificed our lives to polish our craft.

My particular scope of view has been standup comedy, radio and professional wrestling. I have friends in each of those areas that have been at it for decades and are either struggling to hang on even a little bit longer or feverishly looking for something else so they can continue to survive.

And I know there are other fields like actors, dancers, musicians, magicians, film makers and a few more categories I’m sure I missed that are in this same (sinking) boat. We’ve devoted our all to our crafts, but never “made it big”. That term is so unfair, and it’s never about who is the best.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until someone hears me – there are all kinds of talented people at any given craft that are virtual unknowns, and quite often those with minimal talent manage to claw and scratch their way to the top by having razor sharp focus and wanting the spotlight more.

It takes almost a psychotic obsession to hit the big time in any creative endeavor, or a once in a lifetime streak of amazing luck. Or both. That’s rare enough, but now find a way to keep yourself around for more than a few months or even a year. Trust me, it’s NOT easy and most people fail.

In the comedy field, I can easily name dozens of really solid acts that just never found a way to get that break we all need. There are all kinds of reasons for it, but that doesn’t mean they are not talented – and solid citizens as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter in this vicious death race.

Names that pop into my mind off the bat include Dwight York, Don Reese, Dwayne Kennedy, Larry Reeb, Tim Walkoe, Jimmy McHugh, Beth Donahue, James R. Zingelman, Tim Northern, Danny Storts and Ron Ferguson. For every one of those names there are a dozen more, and I will stop naming because I know I’m excluding a friend that I like and respect. But you get the idea.

This all started when I got a phone call today from Rick D’Elia – another highly respected road warrior I love onstage and off. What a classy chap he is, and funny too. He is originally from the Boston area, but has been living on the west coast for years. We met in 2003 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition and have stayed in touch. He’s out there still slugging it out just like me.

He’s driving across the country, and working a week in Oklahoma this week to earn money to get himself home. He’s getting thrown out of his apartment for subletting while he was out trying to make a living in the crumbling comedy business, and he needs to find a place when he returns. I love Rick like a brother, and could totally empathize with his situation. This is why I have zero patience for cocky know-it-alls that have paid zero dues. The show business meat grinder is not for everyone. My heart goes out to Rick and everyone else still in the game. It takes a champion.

Rick D'Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They're ALL great, and deserve a break. www.rickdelia.com.

Rick D’Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They’re ALL great, and deserve a break. They’ve paid big dues. http://www.rickdelia.com.

Afternoon Delight And Three Dog Night

March 31, 2014

Friday March 28th, 2014 – Arlington Heights, IL/St. Charles, IL

Today was yet another jam packed super busy day, but all of it was good. In the early afternoon I was asked to give a speech to a team of website telephone consultants that constantly face a lot of rejection in their job. Lucky them, as I can’t think of anyone with as much experience to speak on that subject as me. If there was ever a match made in heaven for me to be an expert, this is it.

There were about thirty people, and it was their quarterly meeting. Most were probably in their 20s or early 30s, and I’d guess there were a few more females than males. I had several weeks to prepare, and I worked very hard on coming up with things to talk about that would be of interest.

For some reason, ‘regular people’ seem to be fascinated with what it’s like to be an entertainer. I guess I don’t think about it that way because I have done it so long, but it has been pointed out to me over and over recently that I have a unique perspective that business clients want to hear.

I’m delighted to share my stories, and I have plenty to go around. I have had interaction with a lot of celebrities through the years, and that never hurts. People love hearing storied about them, and on top of that mine have points. And if it’s rejection they want to know about, I can speak on that subject with just about anyone still able to walk the planet. I’ve earned my master’s degree.

I spoke for about twenty minutes, and I put everything I had into it. I’m still learning how to be a speaker rather than a comedian, and there is a different pace involved. There are also important message points that need to be included, and I’m working on smoothing it all out into a package I can sell over and over just like my act. It will take more work, but today was a very solid effort.

The person that asked me to speak is my friend Vince Carone. He took my comedy class years ago when he was still a teenager, and has really done well. He now closes shows all over and has an unbelievably sharp business head to go along with a tremendous work ethic. I’m proud of him as a student, but he’s an even better person. People like him are why I keep teaching the classes.

Vince knows the owner of the company, and thought I’d be able to add to the mix while having a chance to practice my speech for a live audience. That’s exactly what happened, and it worked out splendidly. It was win/win, and I could tell it was a hit. This was totally worth all our whiles.

Immediately after finishing there, I drove to Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL to meet up with Mike Preston. He was scheduled to have an interview with Jimmy Greenspoon, keyboardist for the band Three Dog Night. Mike frequently calls when he does interviews like this as comics know how to act around celebrity types. Jimmy McHugh and I are usually his first two choices.

Jimmy and I were both available today, and we each ran a camera as Mike interviewed Jimmy Greenspoon – who happens to be a fascinating character. He grew up in Beverly Hills, and he is the son of a silent film star. He told us some fascinating stories, and then we got to see the show at the Arcada Theatre just down the street. I have always wanted to see them live, and it was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Those guys are total pros – the band and Mike and Jimmy.

Vince Carone got me a speaking gig this afternoon. Thanks Vince! He's also a very accomplished comedian in his own right and just recorded a brand new CD. www.vincecarone.com.

Vince Carone got me a corporate speaking gig this afternoon. Thanks Vince! He’s also a very accomplished comedian in his own right and just recorded a brand new comedy CD. http://www.vincecarone.com.

It was a thrill to meet Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, and see their show as well. www.threedognight.com.

It was a thrill to meet Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, and see their show as well. http://www.threedognight.com.

Super Soup

February 20, 2014

Tuesday February 18th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Not everyone gets an opportunity to look back over the body of work of their entire lives at the very end and sort out all the memories. The stereotypical picture is the old geezer on a death bed surrounded by family, making a final statement before peacefully drifting off into the next world.

I wonder what the percentage is of people that actually have it happen like that. My grandfather probably came the closest of anyone I’ve experienced. He died in hospice care, and I got to have several visits with him in his final days. It was awkward in many ways, and not pleasant at all.

He fought death tooth and nail to the bitter end, and bitter it was. Cancer attacked him brutally, but he hung in there and never gave up. He even went as far as volunteering for an experimental form of chemotherapy so that the doctors could tweak the dosage for future patients. That’s very ballsy in my opinion, and downright heroic. Gramps wouldn’t quit, but cancer wins in the end.

I remember trying to get his mind off his painful condition, and I asked him what his favorite memories were in his life, and it surprised me that he had to stop and think for a bit. I don’t even remember what he said, but the fact he had to think about it was a red flag – at least it was to me.

I have quite a few memories I wouldn’t mind sending off to my personal recycle bin, but those that I cherish are right up there at the top. I don’t have to wait until I’m on any death bed to haul them out and feel good. One that jumps to mind immediately is being on stage when everything is going well. If there’s a feeling of more pure delight and excitement than that I’m yet to feel it.

Another prime source of pleasant memories is time spent hanging out with other comedians. It may seem overrated to place it that high on a life list, but I know I’m not the only one to feel that way. There is just something magical about being in that fraternal mindset with people that have shared the experience of living a gypsy lifestyle and making audiences laugh. It’s a tight group.

Often meetings are held in some roadside grease trap diner, but today I had one at Bill Gorgo’s house. Bill is not only a terrific comedian, he’s as good or better in the kitchen. He co-authored a cook book not long ago, and anytime he invites comedians over for food – we all know to GO.

I first got to experience Bill’s mastery as part of the “Chicago Style Standups” group. That was several years ago now, and coincidentally the time I started writing my daily diary. We needed to have content on the group’s website, and I volunteered to write about my personal life’s exploits.

The group has long disbanded – at least my involvement in it, but we loved the camaraderie of those meetings so Bill will call one on occasion just because. The traditional fare was always his world class soups, and I don’t think he ever repeated one. It was the best soup we’d all ever had.

I had a lot of other things I could and probably should have done today, but when Bill calls for a soup session I know better than to miss it. Jimmy McHugh knows it too, and he showed up like I did. Dan Morris was a first timer, and he loved it too. James Wesley Jackson was scheduled for an appearance, but had to back out. Magician Dennis DeBondt was invited, but he got booked at the last minute. The rest of us had a blast, and made another memory that will only get sweeter.

Comedian Bill Gorgo 'cook's on stage, but he's even better in the kitchen.

Comedian Bill Gorgo ‘cooks’ on stage, but he’s even better in the kitchen.

He's the co-author of the successful cook book "Life Beyond Takeout!"

He’s the co-author of the successful cook book “Life Beyond Takeout!”

When one's ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill's delicious homemade soups make Campbell's taste like raw sewage.

When one’s ability to make soup can attract people from miles around, that person has a gift. Bill’s delicious homemade soups make Campbell’s taste like raw sewage.

No Rape Tonight

February 16, 2014

Friday February 14th, 2014 – Loves Park, IL

Valentine’s Day is usually a pretty strong night for comedy, and tonight I had a booking in of all places Loves Park, IL. It was a country club gig, and those have a tendency to go either way in extremes. They’re impossible to predict, and can be beyond horrific or off the charts fantastic.

Many a night have I toiled in sweat in front of stodgy white people with money who could not relate for the life of them the struggles of Mr. Lucky’s life. They sat there in unimpressed silence as I gave everything I had to entertain them, and then I slinked off the stage to collect my check.

I’ve done golf outings where 95% of the audience is staggering drunk after a day on the course, and the other 5% can’t stay awake for the show. Country clubs have their own set of rules to live by, and it takes a long time to learn them. I’ve had plenty of experience, most of it quite painful.

The good part is, they usually pay pretty well – at least to the person booking it. If that isn’t the actual performer, there is quite often ripe opportunity for downright rape. One of my first gigs at a country club many years ago paid me $250 which was good money for that time. I found out at the end of the night the serpent who booked me had sold me for $1250. Welcome to show biz.

Performing conditions can often be less than primitive as well. They’re not in the entertainment business, so more often than not the lights and sound are of World War II surplus vintage. That’s come to be expected whenever I perform at one now, and much more often than not I am right.

There are often other pitfalls to working country clubs as well – one of the main ones being the serving of food and/or dessert during the show. Live performance is difficult enough. Attempting to perform live standup comedy is harder than that. Doing it while people are eating is insanity.

On the other hand, I’ve had some of my very best shows ever at country clubs. They were full of people who had a sense of humor and wanted to be entertained. They were pillars in the town, and had a clue of how life worked. Most of them owned businesses, and had read a newspaper.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I booked this show myself through a guy that had used several comedians from Zanies in Chicago, and was originally from there. He was very nice on the phone, but I could tell he wasn’t sure if I could do the job. He was apprehensive.

To make sure it would go well, I hired my friend Jimmy McHugh to open the show. He’s given me all kinds of work in the last few years, so I told him I’d split the money 50/50. I know I didn’t have to do that, but he’s a headliner in his own right, and I wanted everyone to come out happy.

Boy, did we. This was one of those nights when everything went right, and we both knocked it so far out of the park we couldn’t see where it landed. It was the perfect lineup of comedians for the perfect audience. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a 26 – and I’m always very hard on myself.

This was just one of those nights that a performer lives for. Everything was working, and it was pure fun for everyone. Jimmy had to work to get them focused and he did exactly that. He earned every penny of his pay, but so did I. And I didn’t have to get raped by any booker. What a night!

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as always. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as he always does. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do!

Body Clock Backlash

January 27, 2014

Sunday January 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

My body clock is way off, and I don’t know if it can ever be fixed. After years of heavy travels and morning radio, it’s impossible to establish a groove. Some days I’ll get up at 4am, and others that’s when I go to sleep. I used to be able to cover it up with youth, but these days I can’t do it.

After the show in Indiana last night, Jimmy McHugh decided he wanted to drive home to avoid impending snow. In the old days I’d have had no problem with that, and in fact it was par for the course for me to drive home from most any show eight hours or less from wherever I was living.

It’s a lot different now, and I am nowhere nearly as concerned about setting land speed records getting anywhere. Safety is much more important, as is comfort. We had beautiful hotel rooms in Fort Wayne, and I wanted to take full advantage of the king size bed, exercise room, hot tub and free breakfast. Jimmy did too, but he thought it was best to make it home to beat the snow storm.

He was driving and he booked the show, so I shut my mouth and got in the car. I didn’t want to start an argument and I could see his logic, but that’s not the choice I would have made. After the entire day of having my sphincter in a state of perpetual pucker, the last thing I wanted was to get right back in the same rental car and drive back home. Too bad. That’s the life of a road warrior.

Quite honestly, I am sick to death of being a road warrior. What drove me to become one is not what’s driving me now, and I’m finding it nothing short of annoying. Again, the actual shows are still fun but everything that goes into showing up for them is becoming less appealing by the day.

Jimmy is a great guy and I love hanging with him, and I can’t blame him for choosing to do the exact thing he did. But as it ended up, we made it to the Chicago area at around 3:30am and there was snow coming down everywhere. I had my car at his house, so I had another hour drive ahead of me right when my body clock was screaming for sleep. Sitting in a cold car wasn’t my choice.

I white knuckled it home, and was dead tired walking through the door. I was out in seconds of my head hitting the pillow, and then woke up at 1pm to none of the snow that had been predicted by the weather geniuses of last night. We probably could have stayed and driven back refreshed.

None of that matters now, as it’s over with – for today. But these kinds of choices always come up and after all these years I’m all choiced out. I’m looking to either travel less or find something else to do that gives me the creative outlet performing does without having to make these drives.

Flying isn’t any better, and in fact it’s worse. Having a pack of TSA orangutans go through my luggage is a completely different annoyance, and I’ve had my fill of it all. Right now, coming up with an effective way to make a comfortable living while establishing a home base is my number one goal for the immediate future. I don’t care where that base is, but a warm one would be nice.

Even if it isn’t, steady money is more important to me now than hectic travel. The snowy roads of Indiana look exactly like the ones in Chicago. I would much rather be able to stay in one place and find a way to have money come to me than get in a rental car and physically have to drive all over the place picking up small payments randomly strewn about the country. I’m way past that.

I used to pride myself on being a road warrior - able to withstand any and all adverse conditions.

I used to pride myself on being a relentless comedy road warrior – able to withstand any and all adverse conditions.

This pretty much sums it up these days. I've learned to appreciate a good nap. I've mellowed.

This pretty much sums it up these days. I’ve learned to appreciate a good nap. I’ve mellowed, but the road can still be tough. I’d love to find something to do that doesn’t involve as much travel – but what?

Braving The Elements

January 27, 2014

Saturday January 25th, 2014 – Woodburn, IN

Comedy work has been flowing very nicely of late, and January has been an excellent month. I love to stay busy, but it always ends up being part of a cycle. Right now I’m riding the wave on a hot streak, and life is peachy. Then it will be slow again, and then heat back up. That’s how it is.

I would absolutely work every night if I could – seven nights a week each and every week – but that’s a tall order. The performing part is that much fun, but unfortunately that isn’t everything to have to think about. Booking actual dates and dealing with travel become a full time occupation.

Tonight was the last of a manufactured three night run and I was booked with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez for a volunteer fire department fundraiser in a small town near Ft. Wayne, IN called Woodburn. That might not sound very exciting, but these kinds of shows can be electric.

Electricity became an important theme all day, as there was a power outage in the town and we weren’t sure if there would be a show or not. Jimmy and I were booked together in Frankfort, IL last night, so he chose me to be part of this fundraiser to make travel easier. We drove together.

Weather can obviously be an issue this time of year, and we knew that. We expect that driving can cause grief, but we weren’t expecting a power outage. Jimmy called around noon to check on the snow conditions, and was told they weren’t sure if they could get power back in time to do a show. They were worried on their end because they’d sold out and didn’t want to give refunds.

We heard back by mid afternoon they could get an emergency generator, but we were keeping our eye on the weather as well and knew we had some rough conditions for driving. It’s not that far from Frankfort, IL to Fort Wayne, IN with ideal conditions, but in the snow all bets are off.

The drive was unpleasantly tense most of the way as we went through everything from slush to sunshine to snowfall and everything in between. It was way more stress than Jimmy or I wanted, but that’s part of the game. Nobody gets to choose when the stress arrives, it’s always random.

Patti was about an hour behind us, as she had a show in Marinette, WI last night and didn’t get home until 4:30am. Jimmy was concerned she wouldn’t make it, and we would have to cover her time. We could have easily done it, but he promised three acts and didn’t want to fail to deliver.

She ended up making it about an hour before the show, and the three of us were frazzled as we drove to Woodburn from our hotel in the Ft. Wayne area. The shows themselves aren’t stressful, but getting there often is. We’d all had all we could stand all day, but we also had a show to do.

The generator was working fine, and there was a jam packed house ready to forget about power outages and bad weather and have some laughs. We gave them exactly that, and they couldn’t be a better audience if they tried. As stressful as it was to get there, they made it worth the trouble.

Jimmy really works hard booking these shows with his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” fundraiser concept. Last year he was here with Mike Preston and James Wesley Jackson, and they rocked as well by all accounts. He’s always looking for new business – http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser comedy shows anywhere that needs to raise them. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

The Chicago Comedy All Stars specialize in doing fundraiser standup comedy shows anywhere and everywhere that needs to raise them. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com.

Tonight it was in Woodburn, IN with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

Tonight it was at a fire station in Woodburn, IN along with Jimmy McHugh and Patti Vasquez.

The show was really fun, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to show business.

The show was really fun as usual, but getting there and back in a snowstorm was brutal. Welcome to real world show business.

Friday Fun With Friends

January 25, 2014

Friday January 24th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

Tonight was another fun night working with long time friends. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I’ve put together a stellar cast of characters that make me laugh and are fun to be around. There are a lot worse ways to make a living, and we all know it. Tonight was a true team effort.

Ken Sevara has booked the comedians at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL for seven years now. He’s a comedian himself, so he understands the process. I’ve become a regular there, and love to work in front of the audiences there. They come to be entertained, and they have always been friendly.

The staff there always treats us like royalty, and if nobody else appreciates it I surely do. It’s an extra perk that doesn’t happen everywhere, and that’s a shame. It happens here, so I look forward to coming back. Dean the owner is into comedy, and the tone has been set from the top on down.

Tonight it was an extra special treat to work with my good friend Jimmy McHugh. The two of us together on one show is hard to beat, and to top it off hosting the show was Brian Hicks. He’s another of Chicago’s best, and doesn’t live far away. The three of us together made it a big night.

The weather was nasty all day, so Jimmy and I rented a car and got a hotel room not far away. I live almost 100 miles one way from Frankfort, and I didn’t want to be dealing with driving home in a snow storm. Jimmy and I are working tomorrow night in Indiana, so this was the right call.

Right before the show started, Tim Slagle walked in. Tim, Ken and I were the original “Jerry’s Kidders” on WLS radio with our friend Jerry Agar. It was nice of Tim to pop in, and I knew we had to find a way to get us all on stage. This was too good of a group in one place not to do that.

I cut my show a few minutes early, and brought up Ken, Tim, Jimmy and Brian for a close out round robin version of “Chicago Style” standup comedy. We each took turns at the microphone, and the audience loved it. The energy in that kind of setting is electric, and we all plugged into it.

The audience got far more than they expected, and everyone had a fantastic experience. I enjoy being able to make things like this happen on the spur of the moment, and it was my call entirely. No matter what problems any of us may have, being on stage together for those few minutes was an escape. It was like we were our own version of the Rat Pack, and the audience came with us.

After our show, we hung around a TV and watched Pat McGann’s debut on David Letterman. I was delighted that there was a crowd there to support, and we were all rooting for him to knock it out of the park. He did exactly that, and spontaneous applause broke out when his set was done.

I’m telling you, that guy has got it. He looked completely at home, and was able to get several applause breaks throughout his set. David Letterman came over to him after he was done and had very complimentary things to say before they went to the commercials. I’d say he hit a home run.

There wasn’t any jealousy among the group of us watching, and I thought it was a great tribute to the character of the people in the room. Pat deserved the shot, and he nailed it. Good for him. I couldn’t be happier for him, or more pleased to have gotten to perform with such a classy bunch.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He's a great pro and an even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Jimmy McHugh is always one of my favorite people to hang with on stage or off. He’s a great pro and an even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. www.funnybrian.com.

Brian Hicks hosted the show tonight, and is another example of a solid professional. http://www.funnybrian.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle dropped in, and of course we made him be part of the show. He nailed it as I knew he would. http://www.timslagle.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the comedians at CD & ME, and also hosts his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. www.patmcganncomedy.com.

All of us took a back seat to Chicago comedian Pat McGann who made his network TV debut on the David Letterman Show tonight. Congrats Pat! You made us all proud. Way to go! http://www.patmcganncomedy.com.

Peer Pleasure

January 12, 2014

Friday January 10th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

It’s no secret that if anyone wants to change their results they must first change their method of doing things. That’s been my entire life mission of late, and boy is it working – and well. I feel a dramatic and dynamic change coming over me, and I really like it. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

I am making correct decisions the vast majority of the time these days, and tonight was a prime example. I originally had a comedy show booked near Rockford, IL, but the show was cancelled due to icy roads and bad weather. Actually they said it was ‘postponed’, but I’m still out money.

Whether it ever gets rescheduled is debatable, but that’s not the point. I had a sudden night off, and I had a choice to make. Do I stay home and mope around, or do I get in the car and go out to visit someone in the Chicago area? I’m normally not a social butterfly at all, especially in sloppy weather. I could have easily stayed home and done el-zilcho, but I felt I needed to take action.

I saw a mention online that Jimmie Walker of ‘Good Times’ was performing tonight at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL along with my friend Todd Link. Todd opens for Jimmie regularly, and it’s a great gig for him. I hadn’t seen him in a while so even though it was almost 100 miles one way, I got in the car and started driving in the sleet. Something told me that was the correct destination.

The roads weren’t horrible, but they were a bit of a concern. I slid around on the ice a little, but nothing that would make me turn around and go home. I’ve driven in winter conditions my entire life so it’s no big deal. I’d made up my mind I was going to go, and that was it. I was committed.

The show started at 8, and I arrived around 9. Jimmie was already on stage, but I saw Todd and comedian Ken Sevara who books the club. They reacted like the Pope had just arrived, and that’s extremely flattering. It’s great to feel welcomed, and I was. That alone made the drive worth it.

I work maybe once a year at CD & ME, and I’ll be there again January 24th. The staff there has always treated me like royalty, and they did again tonight. One of the owners Dean came over to shake my hand immediately, and that doesn’t happen often with club owners. It really felt good.

The vibe in there was wonderful, and had I decided on staying home I’d have missed it all. I’m glad I made the choice to go, and I enjoyed every minute of it. These are the kinds of evenings to remember, and years from now nobody will ever remember that I didn’t perform or that I had to drive in less than ideal conditions. There were a lot of reasons to say no, but I’m glad I said yes.

Another person who decided to come and hang out for the night was Ken Stevens, owner of the comedy club ‘Riddles’. He and Ken Sevara are long time friends, and he has also booked Jimmie several times as well. He has had some severe health issues of late himself and is fighting cancer. He spent a lot of time in the hospital, and by all accounts went through some very rough patches.

I hadn’t seen Ken in a while, but other than dropping some weight he looked and sounded very good. I told him how much we were all rooting for him as we followed updates on Facebook that his sister made during his ordeal. It was inspirational to hear of how he got through it, and I have not had the chance to see him in person to tell him. That was another reason I was glad I came.

One of the true treats of the standup comedy experience is getting a chance to hang with other comedians after the show. Most of us live for it, and other than the shows themselves it’s one of the highlights of our entire lives. Anyone who has been a full time road warrior has memories of sitting in a diner with other comics until the wee hours of the morning making each other laugh.

It’s a much higher and purer level than even the shows themselves, as we are the best audience of anyone. We’re all in the same boat and have a lot of shared experiences and common points of reference already in place that don’t need to be explained. Laughter between comedians is really sweet, and very often getting them to laugh means more than getting laughs from paid audiences.

After the show tonight we got a chance to hang out in the club after everyone left, and it was an absolutely delightful experience. Jimmie, Ken Sevara, Ken’s wife Lori, Todd, Ken Stevens, club owner Dean and I all sat around a big round table and experienced the magic of why we do this.

Everyone at that table was in or around the business, and the stories started flying and laughter was coming from all directions. That particular group dynamic was absolutely perfect, and I saw that everyone was enjoying every second. Times like this just don’t happen as often as they used to, and we all knew it. We could all let our guards down, and be ourselves. Everyone enjoyed it.

I have nothing but respect for everyone at that table. I’ve known them all for years, and they’ve paid their dues and then some. Ken Sevara and Lori lived in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, and were in the boom years of comedy out there. They knew Jimmie from those days, and I have nothing but respect for him as well. That guy is a true road warrior, and continues to work after all this time.

He said that he has been on TV every single day somewhere for 45 years, and that’s impressive to the point of awe. Even more impressive is that he still works at the craft of standup comedy. It isn’t easy, but he still adds new material and works at it when he could easily just phone it all in.

Todd Link is another guy I respect very much. We met in Salt Lake City when I lived there and bonded instantly because we’re both huge sports fans to the point of obsession. He knows former NBA player Tom Tolbert pretty well, and we’ve just always stayed in contact. He’s a funny guy, and we’d love to eventually start a group of comedians that love sports and focus on that market.

Todd is based out of Nashville, where he takes care of his father who needs his help. That takes a lot of time and effort, and I commend Todd for making that difficult choice. It’s never the easy road to be selfless and care for someone else before one’s own needs, but Todd does exactly that. These are life decisions far more than just career ones, and we all have to make them at times.

Sitting at that table made me extremely proud to have spent my life in service of others making strangers laugh, and I felt completely at home in everyone’s company. Not only that, I savored it because I knew all the sacrifices everyone else had made to be there as well. The audience saw a fantastic show on stage from Jimmie, Todd and Ken, but there was an even better one afterward.

I’m going to be performing at CD & ME in two weeks with my friend Jimmy McHugh. That’s another long time comedy road warrior I love as a friend and respect greatly as an act. If you can, come see us. http://www.cdandme.com. I made a fantastic choice tonight. I am finally smartening up.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I'll be headlining there on Janary 24th. www.cdandme.com.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I’ll be headlining there on Janary 24th. http://www.cdandme.com.

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that?

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that? http://www.dynomitejj.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn't think that was possible. He's also a very funny comedian. www.jokertodd.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn’t think that was possible. He’s also a very funny comedian. http://www.jokertodd.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called 'Fly By Night'. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. http://www.kensevara.com.

An Unusual Mix

October 27, 2013

Wednesday October 23rd, 2013 – Vernon Hills, IL/Great Lakes, IL

Today was a long day with an unusual mix of activities, but everything was fun. First up was a career fair of all things at Vernon Hills High School in Vernon Hills, IL. I’ve never been part of one of those before, so I went in with an open mind. I looked at it as an opportunity for learning.

Rick Young is Jimmy McHugh’s partner in The Chicago Comedy All Stars group, and they’ve booked me many times to be on their fundraiser shows. Rick is a master salesman by trade, and was asked to be part of the career fair by some contact he made. He asked if I would come along and talk to the kids that had questions about getting into the entertainment business. I said yes.

Part of me was curious as to how many would be interested, and what they thought was funny at that age. It was a good demographics test, plus I enjoy hanging out with Rick. The event went from 9am to 2pm, but it included lunch so I was there. I’m glad I went, as it was very revealing.

The kids were very smart, and asked a lot of intelligent questions. When I asked who they liked as a comedian names I heard frequently were Louis CK and Gabriel Iglesias. I didn’t know what to expect, but those were by far the most frequent answers. I enjoyed talking to them, and the day flew by. I’m glad Rick asked me to tag along and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was productive.

This evening I had a booking at Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake County, IL. I’ve worked there before, and have always had fun. They treat performers extremely well, and the audiences are up there with the best anywhere. They’re very supportive of live entertainment, and that makes it all worth going. It’s close to home too, which is a huge perk. I’ll work there any time they call me.

John Prue and Lisa Weaver were my direct contacts, and they couldn’t have been easier to deal with. There’s a lot of government red tape to go through for security purposes after 9/11, but we worked it out and there were no problems. I brought my picture ID and all of the paperwork they sent and everything came off without a hitch. It was a small price to pay for such a fun booking.

I hosted the show tonight, and it was a breeze. They had some giveaways they asked me to do before the show started, and I’ve had plenty of experience doing things like that. There were all kinds of nice prizes, and I had to make ad libs as people came up to collect them. It was easy.

Then they asked me to do 5-10 minutes to warm the audience up before I brought up the other acts Beth Stelling and then Myq Kaplan. Beth is originally from Ohio but lived in Chicago for a couple of years, and I hadn’t met Myq before. He’s from New York, and has a lot of TV credits.

Both of them were really funny, and good people too. Beth has always been a sweetheart, and now she’s made the big move to LA. She’s razor sharp in her business acumen, as is Myq. I can learn a lot from them both, and good for them for understanding the important part of the game.

The audience loved us all, and it was fun to watch Beth and Myq work as I hadn’t seen either of their entire sets before. We had a lot of fun hanging out backstage before the show, and they treated us like big stars the whole night. We had a deli tray and drinks on ice, and it felt like we were really in showbiz. If there’s a better way to spend a Wednesday night, I can’t think of it.

Great Lakes Naval Base is always a great gig.

Great Lakes Naval Base is always a great gig.

Comedian Jimmy McHugh

October 26, 2013

Saturday October 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is the birthday of one of my all time favorite comedians, the great Jimmy McHugh out of Chicago. He is also one of my favorite friends, and I can’t say enough good things about him onstage or off. In my opinion, he should have gotten a huge break a long time ago. He’s a talent.

There is also a comedian out of Boston named Jim McCue, but we’ve never met in person. We are Facebook friends, and I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about him onstage and off as well. The two do get confused from time to time, and Jim McCue’s birthday happens to be tomorrow.

I found it kind of odd that two guys who have the same sounding name and are both comedians from two different cities happen to have a birthday a day apart. I don’t think it’s weird enough to make it into the next Ripley’s Believe It Or Not compilation, but it’s close. It adds to the legend.

I first met Jimmy McHugh in the ‘80s at The Comedy Cottage in Rosemont, IL. I used to come from Milwaukee to get stage time when I first started, and that was the showcase club in the area. There were all kinds of comics that went on to much bigger things, and that’s where it all started.

What a vibe there was in that place. The comedy boom was just starting, and audiences were as hot as one could imagine – even on week nights. It was an era that will never be again and I wish I could have recorded some of those shows for the historical value. They were loaded with talent.

The thing I remember most about Jimmy was that his material was very polished. His style is a lot different than most comedians in that he writes in chunks. His stuff is very much his own, and has stood the test of time. Several of his bits are flat out standup comedy classics in my opinion.

He does a hilarious routine about a drunk taking the bus home on New Year’s Eve in Chicago. He plays the character to perfection, and it’s outstanding. He also has one about vacuuming a rug where a piece of lint won’t get sucked up. That might not sound all that funny, but Jimmy brings it to life and gets the crowd roaring every time. Again, it’s unique and he has made it his own.

I’ll bet Jimmy has a dozen chunks of really solid time tested material like that, and even though I’ve seen them literally hundreds of times they still make me laugh out loud even now. He knows what he’s doing, and I love to watch him work. He has been paying dues even longer than I have.

Even more appreciated is his friendship. I thought I was a giver, but Jimmy goes all out. When I was doing cruise ship work a couple of years ago, Jimmy would get up at 3 or 4am to drive me to O’Hare Airport to catch a flight and then let me park my car in his driveway to save all kinds of parking fees. This wasn’t just once either. He did it week after week and never complained.

Too often we wait until someone dies to recall all the great things they did, but I wanted to put it out there about Jimmy while he’s alive so he can be appreciated for the gem that he is. It would be great if the good guy would catch a break for once, and nobody would cheer louder than me if that happened. Jimmy has booked me for shows through the years, and always pays comedians a solid buck to the point of it coming out of his pocket. He puts his money where his mouth is, and nobody I know works harder. Check him out for yourself at http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com.

Chicago's Jimmy McHugh - a great comedian and even greater friend. www.comedianjimmymchugh.com

Chicago’s Jimmy McHugh – a great comedian and even greater friend. http://www.comedianjimmymchugh.com