Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy McHugh’

Five Funny Friends

September 27, 2013

Thursday September 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Oh, to have even a teaspoon of power and influence in this out of control tilt-a-whirl known as the entertainment business. I don’t want it so much for me, but to be able to showcase as many of my talented friends and colleagues as possible. That would give me as big of a kick as if I did it.

That’s one of the reasons I was such a rabid fan of Johnny Carson – or at least his position. His show was a launching pad for a lot of acts, but especially comedians. He seemed to enjoy putting people on and letting the public discover their talent, and I would love to be able to do it as well.

On a far smaller scale, any time I’ve had radio shows I have always tried to put as many of my talented friends as I could on the air. I love to be able to let them shine and have their moment in the sun, and I have always been secure enough in my own skin to not have to always be the star.

I talked to my friend Dwight York yesterday, and he’s a shining example of exactly what I am talking about. Dwight is one of my absolute favorite comedians ever, and a super guy to boot. It boggles my mind why he isn’t a big star, and if had even a little influence he’d be one tomorrow.

He’s delightfully sick and twisted, and an absolutely brilliant joke writer. He has a book called “The Vile File” which is a catalog of his best work, and he has a hilarious CD as well. Dwight is also one of the hardest workers around, yet he doesn’t seem to get his due. I don’t understand it.

Check him out and see if you don’t agree he’s fantastic. His website is http://www.dwightyork.com, and if you get a minute send him an email and tell him I told you to say hello. You’ll be a fan for life like I am, and make it a point to see him whenever you can. He never fails to make me laugh.

Another guy I’m in awe of is Don Reese. Don is another dark and twisted hombre, and I mean that in a very positive way. He loves monster movies, and looks like he could star in one. I have always wanted to book a tour with Dwight, Don and another comic named Dan Still. I wanted to call them “The Pirates of Comedy”, and I know they could develop a rabid following all over.

Don’s website is http://www.donreese.com and his DVD “It Came From Iowa” is a must have. He’s like the typical bad guy pro wrestler – scary in the ring, but a teddy bear in real life. Dwight and Don are both sweethearts, as is Dan Still. Put them on a comedy stage, and it’s a different story.

Dan’s website is http://www.danstill.com, and his CD is called “Anger Therapy”. All three of those guys get their ya-yas out on stage, and then off stage they’re mild mannered and sweet. I would LOVE to be their manager and build their brand, but who has time? I’ve got my own problems.

Of course there’s my friend “The Enviromedian” James Wesley Jackson. I’m still trying to get his new DVD noticed, and you can find him at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com. He’s someone else I think deserves to get some time in the sun. James has paid his dues, and deserves a payday.

Then there’s my good friend Jimmy McHugh and his “Chicago Comedy All Stars” concept. He is another guy who deserves a break. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. I can think of a lot more, but for now I’ll leave it at this. Please seek out and support these people. They’re ALL tremendous!

Dwight York - his book 'The Vile File' is laugh out loud funny!

Dwight York – his book ‘The Vile File’ is laugh out loud funny!

Don Reese - "It Came From Iowa" is a must own DVD.

Don Reese – “It Came From Iowa” is a must own DVD.

Dan Still looks like 'The Undertaker' - or is it the other way around? www.danstill.com.

Dan Still looks like ‘The Undertaker’ – or is it the other way around? http://www.danstill.com.

What's an Enviromedian? Find out at www.jameswesleyjackson.com

What’s an Enviromedian? Find out at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com

Jimmy McHugh - head Chicago Comedy All Star. www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

Jimmy McHugh – head Chicago Comedy All Star. http://www.chicagocomedyallstars.com. Great act, great friend.

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

April Fuel

April 3, 2013

Monday April 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   It’s April 1st already, and somehow I feel like I’m the fool. Time is flying faster than I can keep up with and the first quarter of 2013 is now part of history. Really? I’m still behind on having my computer Y2K proofed, and I have a calendar in my wallet from my insurance agent from 1994.

Where does the time go? Away. That’s all that really matters. I’m seeing how important it is to make productive use of every free second I can, and I severely regret all the time I’ve completely pissed away until now. It’s not a renewable resource, and when it’s gone it’s gone. It’s precious.

If there is reincarnation, I sure hope we get a chance to come back and live life with knowledge going in, rather than being the empty headed halfwits we are now. Having someone to show us a few secret tips would help, but I guess that’s what parents are for in theory. I missed that boat.

My grandfather was great, but he died when I was 18 – right when I needed those tips the most. I made some extremely stupid mistakes on my own, and have kept that up to some degree for the duration. It takes years to get out of bad decisions, and sometimes the damage can be permanent.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come into the world with some preexisting smarts? Damn, I’d be a major player and a multimillionaire by now. Too much freedom can be a bad thing, but I am by far not the only one to have mangled potentially good situations. Life is a big blind crapshoot.

Tonight I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago, and after the show I hung out with Bert Haas, Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton. Bert is the booker of Zanies, and his wife Sally is a comedian. Jimmy and Kevin are comedians who’ve done it as long or longer than me.

Bert was telling us that he and Sally were having a heated discussion on what a comedian’s job focus is. Sally’s view – and the three of us readily agreed – was that it was to always be working to improve one’s act and to be a better performer. It made perfect sense to Jimmy, Kevin and me.

Bert told us we were all wrong, and said it boils down to two words – SELL TICKETS. That’s never what any true comedian wants to hear, but it is the truth. If we don’t sell tickets, what does it matter what our act is? We might as well be hobby comics, and unfortunately most of us are.

This is a cold hard concept, and one I haven’t been good at embracing. It’s also the exact cause of why I’m not getting the results I’d like and other people are. I’ve known Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton for years, and I like them both as people and think they’re funny comedians too.

Unfortunately, all three of us are among the struggling when it comes to our business. Any one of us could go on national television tomorrow and at the very least not embarrass ourselves, but what is embarrassing is how we’re all living hand to mouth after all these years of paying dues.

Had any of us had the vision of selling tickets first, our lives would be completely different in a good way. We’d be free to work on our acts – even though that’s really never a priority with fans who come to see us. James Gregory knows it. Jeff Foxworthy too. It’s April, time to smarten up.

Behind The Scenes

March 22, 2013

Thursday March 21st, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   I want to run through my whole schedule for today so those who think they might want to enter the entertainment business can see exactly what it entails on a given day. Today was particularly hectic, but I’ve had a lot of others like it. See if this is a field you’d be interested in getting into.

I received a call last night saying I needed to be in downtown Chicago for a TV appearance on ‘Mancow TV’ at 7am. It came out of the blue, and I couldn’t say no. Part of being a headliner is doing media interviews to drum up business, and those can often come in at the very last minute.

This was about as last minute as it gets. I received confirmation at 8pm, which meant I had to be on a train into the city by 4:45am this morning. I didn’t make it back home to the sticks where I live until after midnight, so that didn’t leave much time for sleeping. I had more than a couple of emails to read through before I could go to bed, and after those I had phone messages to hear.

I got up at 3:30am to take a quick shower and be at the train station in time to park my car and buy my ticket. It’s a mile from my house, but I drove because I knew my walk would be from the train station to the TV station. That was about a mile and a half one way, and it was bitchy cold.

The TV show lasted from 7 to 8, but they asked me to stay longer to tape some more segments for Mancow’s radio show because the producers could see I knew how to throw in quick lines to fit their manic format. I didn’t really want to stay, but again that’s part of the gig. I didn’t get out until 9:30, and then I had another mile and a half walk in the nasty cold back to the train station.

I got back to Fox Lake at 11:30, and then had to deposit a check at the bank. It’s my secondary account, and there was a change in policy that now requires a minimum balance or I get charged a monthly fee. I had to sit with the banker and get that worked out, and that was 45 minutes I will never get back. I can’t stand wasting time with minutia like that, but who else can I get to do it?

Then I needed to stop home and make my hotel reservations for the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta next week – another process I can’t stand. I was typing in credit card numbers and it took way longer than I had to spare today. Still, it needed to get done or I’ll be sleeping in a rental car.

That was the next order of business, and the hassle started all over again. After that, I had to do a call in radio interview for a show I’m doing with Jimmy McHugh’s Chicago Comedy All Stars on Saturday in Spencer, IA. Again, that’s part of being a comedian and it’s crucial to get it done.

Then I had to squeeze in a haircut, as I’ve needed one for a while and have a lot of nicer shows coming up. Again, I didn’t want to do it but it needed to get done. The lady who cut my hair had a nasty cold, and she was sniffling and sneezing the whole time so I’ll probably end up sick too.

This was all before having to drive to Zanies in Chicago for a show at 8:30 where there was an inordinate amount of drunken hecklers. There was a group of Canadians and a group of Alabama goobers. Total hell. I had to fight to keep them all quiet, but I did. Still want to be a comedian?

What A Week!

February 11, 2013

Saturday February 9th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   This week at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort is comedy heaven for several reasons. After spending a lifetime experiencing anything and everything that can go wrong with standup comedy, it was a delicious treat to have everything work out correctly without a glitch.

First, it’s close to home. What a wonderful treat not to have to worry about travel for a change. Anytime I can work a week of comedy shows and sleep in my own bed is a humongous positive. If I never have to stay in a hotel ever again, my life would not miss a beat. I’ve done it too much.

Second, it’s a quality venue. The sound and lights are always great, and since it’s been open for so long there is at least a fighting chance most if not all of the audience at least knows the reason they are there. There is visible security in place to escort the morons who don’t get it out the door but that doesn’t happen often. When it does, Lenny Creagh handles it beautifully. He’s a real pro.

Third, it’s managed well and has been for years. Cyndi Nelson is one of the most respected and beloved comedy club managers anywhere, and she recently moved on to manage the new Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Tracey Whitmer is now in her place and like Cyndi she actually enjoys comedy and treats the comedians with respect. It’s refreshing to show up at a club and feel wanted there.

All of these things are the foundation of an outstanding work environment, but what really sent this week into orbit was the solid lineup of comedians. I was extremely fortunate to share the bill with a pair of my all time favorites both onstage and off in Vince Maranto and Jimmy McHugh.

Zanies has used house emcees for years, and I am a big proponent of that concept. It makes the shows far better as a whole, as someone with experience starts the night and maintains an energy that can’t be achieved by putting up a rank amateur like most comedy clubs have done to death.

Vince is one of the Zanies regular hosts, and does a fantastic job. We’ve known each other for at least twenty five years, and he’s a solid headliner in his own right as is Jimmy McHugh. They have both been through the wars just like I have, and it’s a breeze working with guys like that as nothing can rattle any of us at any time. We’ve all seen it before, and our calmness level is high.

The three of us are comedy mercenaries at this point, but that’s not a bad thing. We still love to perform and all do it well, but none of us are big stars and may never be. We’ve all paid our dues and are big leaguers as far as being professional comedians, and we all respect each other’s acts.

I watched Vince and Jimmy this whole week and they still make me laugh out loud even if I’ve seen their bits literally hundreds of times. They’re both well written and well performed, and I’m a fan of them both as people and as comics. Getting to be on a show with them was fun but rare.

Comedy clubs as a rule just don’t book that much talent on one show like a Zanies does. For at least four nights, I had a dream working environment and I enjoyed every second of it as I know how uncommon it truly is. Next week I’m back to the grind, and I will appreciate this even more.

Kings For A Night

October 29, 2012

Saturday October 27th, 2012 – Fond Du Lac, WI

   Some nights it feels like I’m almost there. This was one of them. I don’t know why every night can’t be like this, but it isn’t. That’s what makes this whole game so difficult. I can’t think of any other profession where the circumstances are so consistently different from one night to the next.

I’d much prefer a bit more stability, but nobody ever said that would be part of the deal. We are all trying to scrape together a living any way we can, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to do it with any kind of regularity. We need to take work when and where it comes, and that’s how it is.

More and more comedians have to be entrepreneurial and book our own shows. Whatever kind of ‘circuit’ there may have been at one time is now a hollow shell of what it was. Booking agents that used to have several quality weeks of work to offer are down to a few scattered random gigs.

Survival as an entertainer requires a lot more hustle these days than ever – and it required hustle before. There may have been more work and less competition in the past, but it still took work to rise above the pack that existed then. Now, there are a lot more people fighting hard for scraps.

Jimmy McHugh is doing the right thing by seeking out fundraisers for his Chicago Comedy All Stars group. He’s got a deep rich pool of experienced talent to choose from and he knows how to put together quality shows. I don’t ever remember there being a bad show whenever I’ve worked with him, and tonight was no exception. This audience got their money’s worth and then some.

Jimmy, James Wesley Jackson and I were in Fond Du Lac, WI tonight doing a fundraiser for a great cause called ‘Hallow-Ian’. Ian Lock is a high school kid in town who survived cancer a few years ago and is doing very well now. The fundraiser started with him, but was passed forward to others who need it and this is the third year. Any time I can be part of this kind of event I’ll do it.

The hosts of the show were Marty Schibbelhut from B 104.7 and an old comedy friend named Michael ‘Silk’ Casper who works at ‘The Great 98’ WMDC. Michael is a long time comedian of very high caliber, and worked the road for years. Like me, he dabbled in both radio and comedy but he had a family to raise and opted for ‘stability’. I don’t fault anyone for ever choosing that.

He was always very funny, and it was great to share the stage once again after many years. We were treated like rock stars, and couldn’t appreciate it more. Jimmy knows what he’s doing when he sets up these shows, and Michael came through because he’s been a comedian his whole life.

The show itself was a stone cold killer and then some. Jimmy and James are both easy to work with, and we’ve always gotten along very well on stage and off. James is one of the nicest human beings walking the planet, and he always has a calming effect on everyone. It was a super night.

The only thing wrong is that we don’t have a couple of these every week. If we did, life would be a whole lot easier. Next week it’s back to pounding the turf for work, and I for one don’t have any. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but that’s in the future. For tonight we were all rock stars.

I Love Detroit

March 29, 2010

Friday March 26th, 2010 – Novi, MI

I know it sounds crazy, but I love Detroit. There’s a vibe here that I’ve always been able to plug into, and I feel it again now that I’m back for the first time in a long time. I’ve had great shows here as I have in most of the rust belt towns. These people are into what I do.

I left a little later than I wanted to this morning and got stuck in Chicago traffic…again. There’s such a small window of opportunity to sneak by without getting stuck and it’s too early for me to get up, especially after I’ve been up late working on projects, which I was. I decided to get some sleep and a nice breakfast and wait for rush hour to run it’s course.

That was the right choice as I breezed through Chicago without any major delays, but I did have a little trouble in Indiana and that was frustrating. There’s nothing to do except sit there and wait it out, which is what I did. I had crossword puzzles and a stack of good motivational audio so I was ready to fight it but I didn’t need any of that. I had my phone.

Cell phones have made the booking process SO much easier. Actually, most bookings I now get are through email, but calling is still king with some bookers. It depends on each one’s individual preference, and that’s pretty random. I decided to reconnect with bookers instead of whine about traffic so of course when I started liking it, traffic started moving.

I wish I had a buck for every time I had to drive around Lake Michigan in my life to get to a gig. It’s not that far straight across to go from Milwaukee or Chicago to a Kalamazoo or a Grand Rapids, but having to go around the lake turns it into a major trip every time.

Not only that, there’s usually hellish construction on at least one several mile stretch of I-94 that backs up traffic for miles in both directions. How many times have I been going to some Michigan gig only to get foiled by construction and end up making it within just a few seconds of taking the stage? Too many to count. I made time for it today as well.

Lucky for me, they’ve FINALLY finished it and there were no orange barrels at all that made my life any more miserable than it already is. I did stop in Kalamazoo to have lunch with my friend Phil Anglin and it was nice to see him. He owns a couple of small bars in the area that he’d heard me on Bob and Tom years ago and wanted to try booking a show.

It ended up going very well and then we booked another one. His birthday is a day after mine and he’s just a mile mannered guy trying to make a living. He always sends cards on my birthday and Christmas and I really like and respect the guy. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while so it was good to meet up and catch up over ketchup and meat. He’s a good man.

I also stopped in Ann Arbor to hang out with Jimmy McHugh who’s working the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase this week. He loves sports as do I so we spent $5 for a ticket to see the University of Michigan baseball team play. It was a beautiful day and a great way to relax a little and enjoy life. I made it to the hotel in plenty of time and it was a pleasant  surprise to find out it was a Holiday Inn and Suites, and I had a suite. Life is good today.