Posts Tagged ‘Keith Stubbs’

Grass Roots Support

August 26, 2013

Saturday August 24th, 2013 – South Haven, MI

   The only thing more fun for a comedian than having a smoking hot show on a Saturday night is having it while the person who booked it is in the room. That way there’s absolutely nothing lost in translation, and everyone is on the same page. Tonight I rocked the house in South Haven, MI.

   The guy who books it is a comedian named Jerry Donovan. I’ve worked for him a few times in the last year or so and he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite contacts. He handles business in the most professional way, and is an absolute joy to work with. I wish all bookers were like him.

   It’s extremely rare for anyone to be proficient as both a performer and booking agent, but there is the occasional exception. Jerry is one as is Keith Stubbs in Salt Lake City. Jim McHugh does a superb job in Chicago as does Steve Sabo in Toledo. After them, I have a hard time naming any.

   Jerry is one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen in a long time. He finds classy venues in the concentrated area of western Michigan where he lives, and then goes about doing a thorough job of promoting them correctly. That’s the difference. He’s not just running half assed hell shows in  sleazy bars. He goes out and finds sponsors and makes sure they’re run properly. And they are.

   He makes sure there is adequate lighting and sound – another important detail too many tend to overlook – and hosts the majority of his shows himself. He’s a funny seasoned pro, so it also adds to the quality of the evening. From top to bottom, Jerry pampers the audience, venue and comics.

   What a treat it is to work for a guy like that. His hard work shows through, and every time I’ve been lucky enough to work for him it’s been a fun experience. Tonight was no different, as they had a sold out show and the biggest crowd they’ve had for a comedy night to date. It was a blast.

   To make the evening even more productive, I was able to bring along one of my students from the Zanies comedy class to do a five minute guest set. He asked to tag along and offered to drive, so that sold it right there. Any time I don’t have to drive, count me in. That was yet another treat.

   This is exactly how the comedy business should be on so many levels. The crowds Jerry brings in – get this – WANT to be there. They didn’t win free tickets by the pound by dropping business cards in a fish bowl at the tanning salon. Jerry promotes it all properly, and books top level acts.

   There’s a fair cover charge, and people either pay or they don’t. Those that choose to are there to be entertained. That’s the formula, but there’s nothing secret about it. It’s HARD WORK, and plenty of it. Jerry is out there busting his ass trying to make a living for himself and his family. If he makes a profit – and I sure hope he does – he earns every last penny.

   As I was getting paid after the show, Jerry told me of one of his venues that has dropped him as booker and is going with one of the greasy ones. They thought he was making too much, and got greedy. The other booker immediately cut the pay for the comics, and began using far lower acts to save money. Cutting corners like that is the beginning of the end before they start. Jerry does it right, and he has my loyalty to the death. It costs a little bit more to go first class, and he does it.

Jerry Donovan - a class act onstage and off!

Jerry Donovan – a class act onstage and off!


The Peak Of Ripeness

June 22, 2013

Friday June 21st, 2013 – Niles, IL

   It’s the first day of summer, and once again I find another year slipping away. After today days start to get shorter again, so this is it – the prime day of the year. I’m not booked tonight, and I’m not thrilled about it in the least. I want to be out working as much as I can, and that’s every week.

   Nothing else makes me even close to happy. I’ve resigned myself to the icy fact that I’m never going to have that solid family relationship I have always wanted, but if I can’t have that the only other thing I’d ever want is a chance to be on stage entertaining people who are there to see me.

   I’ve been chasing that tricky rabbit longer than I think I should have, and I don’t feel any closer now than when I started. I have come untold light years as a performer, but nobody knows who I am so what good is it? I know I can go on stage and light up a room, but nobody powerful cares.

   Rodney Dangerfield had a great joke that said he quit show business and when he quit – he was the only one who KNEW he quit. That’s funny to anyone who isn’t living it. I feel like I’m there now myself, and I’m not laughing. I’m not even smiling. I’m panicking, and that’s never good.

   There are too many choices to make, and I have no idea which ones are correct. I’ve made a lot of stupid ones through the years, but even so I still paid my dues and developed my natural talent to the point it’s ripe and ready to pick. I’m at my peak just like today is the peak of the summer.

    I don’t want to waste any more time, as that peak ripeness won’t last forever. It will eventually get soft and rot, and the last thing I want is to be a rotten piece of fruit that fell off the tree. I have come way too far for that, so I decided to do something about it. I am not satisfied with this fate.

   In a perfect world, I’d be working six to seven nights a week in nice venues for audiences filled with my fans. I’d super serve those people, and give them my very best each night. I’d sign every autograph and pose for every picture after the show, and live the rest of my days brightening the days of as many others as humanly possible. I’ve got the ability, now I just need the opportunity.

   How the hell is that going to happen? I wish I knew. I read an interview with Lewis Black and he said he had resigned himself to the fact he’d never make it – and then he made it. I’m right at that point myself, and I don’t like it one bit. There’s no guarantee I’ll hit anything, and that rots.

   I can rattle off a dozen names of absolutely fantastic standup comedians that the public has no idea whatsoever who any of them are. Look these people up in no particular order and tell me if you don’t think they’re hilarious. I know they are, because they’ve paid their dues just like me.

   Here’s a list off the top of my head: Tim Cavanagh, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern, Dwight York, Don Reese, Jim McHugh, James Wesley Jackson, Beth Donahue, John McClellan, Danny Storts, Ross Bennett, Keith Stubbs, Todd Johnson, Auggie Smith, Bill Gorgo, Rick D’Elia, Wally Wang and now I’m going to get in trouble because I’ll leave someone out unintentionally. Suffice to say not everyone makes it.

   I’ve said it before, and I wish it weren’t true – talent does NOT assure anyone of career success in the entertainment business. In sports it may be different, but this isn’t sports. This is a business based on subjective opinions of many that have never once attempted to do themselves what they are allegedly experts at choosing. This has always been frightening and extremely disturbing, but I don’t see it ending any time soon. There are hoops that are to be jumped through, like it or not.

   I don’t like it and never have, but if I intend to change my current status I need to suck it up for at least a little while and get back out there. There are so many places other than comedy clubs to approach, and that’s where it gets tricky. Where do I go and who do I talk to? I haven’t been able to figure it out until now, so what leads me to believe I’ll do it now? I can’t, so I need some help.

   I had lunch with Marc Schultz today, and in his world he’s in a similar situation. Marc books a variety of entertainment acts and has for years. He inherited an agency from his father, and even though he’s not a comedy booker per se I have gotten a decent amount of work over the years.

   Marc and I are friends, and there aren’t many bookers I’d call a friend first. I genuinely like the guy, and even if he never booked me again I’d still hang out with him. That’s all fine, but we put our heads together today to see what we could come up with. His business isn’t what it was, but what business these days is? We can both use a little freshening up, so we came up with a plan.

   Most of Marc’s clients are corporate types. Most of them would never hire a standup comic but he’s going to approach the ones that might. He’s always been good about trying to include me on any sampler videos he sends, and I totally appreciate it. But I can do the job, and he realizes that.

   We also agreed that Marc is going to go after club work that I haven’t gone after, for a fee. I’m delighted to pay anybody to get me work I don’t have, so this is a no brainer. If he can land some decent work, I’m all over it. I don’t want to work the toilet circuit anymore, so these will be good clubs that will pay decent money. He’s not familiar with the club market, but he’s willing to try.

   This is not a long term fix, but in the short run it could be great for both of us. I won’t be stuck doing what I’ve never liked, and it’s always good to have a third party selling me rather than me stumbling and stammering and asking for work like a vagrant asks for change. I’ve never liked it.

   Steady work is what’s it’s about in any facet of show business. Period. I’d rather work steadily and make livable wage than be a big star one minute and a has been bum the next. I’m all about a steady career with regular income. I’ve come close many times, but I’ve never been able to make it last. There’s always been a radio job to come along and shake things up in a destructive way.

   I’m not foreseeing any radio in my immediate future. That ship has sailed – or sunk. What I am going to do is cross every T and dot every I and go after all the quality standup comedy work I’m able to get. It could be comedy clubs, cruise ships, colleges or corporate. I can handle just about anything at this point, but what I can’t handle is not working at all. That’s totally unacceptable.

   I look at comics from my generation of performers like Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan, and I want to be doing what they’re doing. How did they get it? I don’t know. I’m sure it was a lot of things. Talent is a part, but so is persistence, connections, luck and who knows what else? It’s complex.

   If I don’t get myself in front of someone, I’ll never have any chance to do anything. That’s not what I want to have as my final legacy, so at least Marc is going to be out there trying to mention my name to people who can book me in decent venues. Why haven’t we done this before now?

   Neither one of us has an answer. Marc was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. Now we’ve both run out of ‘things’, and this is a logical fit – at least for now. I’m going to dive into booking myself in as many quality places as I can. No more toilets. If I succeed, my life will change soon. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s just that where I’m doing it hasn’t gotten me seen.

Bookings Overdue

June 4, 2010

Wednesday June 2nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Day two of my umpteen thousandth life reboot program, and this is where it usually has a tendency to fall apart. It’s difficult to do anything consistently, especially something this complicated and ambitious. I want to revolutionize my whole life, and that‘s no small job.

I did get my fanny back in the mall and take my lap, and that’s a good thing. I felt every bit of it, but at least I did it. Two days won’t make me into an Olympian, but it’s two days in a row. Now I need three. Then a week. Then a month, two months, a year and so forth.

My tendencies have always leaned toward action, but lack of a big picture plan is one of my major weaknesses. My friend Bill Mihalic sent me an email a year ago telling me how he thought I could achieve my goals, and I was grateful he did. He sent me another saying a lot of the same things and that’s probably a hint that I haven’t executed his suggestions.

I really think my intentions are good, but I’m just so damn scattered. I’ve always had to make my own way in life, and I’ll admit my trust issues even now are very evident. I have to survive month to month, and it’s hard to think anywhere past that, although I know I’m not smart in not doing that. I’m a one man band, and that’s just not going to get it done.

The best race car driver in the world needs a pit crew. I’m to the point where I need one too. I’ll have to pay them, and I don’t mind that at all – but I need to up my income quite a bit for that to happen. I need to delegate tasks, but still be in control of the steering wheel.

That’s where I’m having my problem. I just don’t trust people. Part of it comes from my childhood I’m sure. My mother abandoned me when I was five months old, and that’s had to have had a ripple effect somewhere. If I can’t trust my own mother, who else is there?

Then there was my childhood best friend Timbo who robbed the bank where he used to work and tried to blame it on me. He was closer than my own flesh and blood brother and when I had to testify against him in court it not only broke my heart, it built even more of a brick wall around my heart and made letting people in even harder. That one really hurt.

It’s the same with women too. Every woman I’ve ever dated has at some point said that they’re frustrated because I don’t ‘let her in’. And I guess I don’t. I’m very guarded with a lot of my inner delicate intimate things that get shared between people that are close, both in love and in business. When I have opened up, even a little, I’ve gotten boned big time.

I still haven’t gotten over my ex business partner’s little embezzlement stunt that really put me in the trick bag. I had to start completely over with a new website, mailing list and a few thousand dollars less than I had before due to his sticky fingers. Trust is a big issue.

Still, I’m going to have to learn to deal with this if I’m going to make any real progress. I have to pick my battles, and some things I’m going to have to just let go of and let other people have control. I thought about this the whole time I was walking through the mall.

Where I can make my biggest change for the good is how I deal with all of this. I’m not the first person in history to have trust issues. I read where Dick Van Dyke never let even his brother Jerry inside his personal inner world. Who knows why that is? Dick Van Dyke is also a creative type, left handed, and maybe some of it just goes with how we’re built.

This is deep stuff, and probably boring for most to read, but I’m delving into it because I know I’m not the only one who deals with this. Not only the trust issues, but also having major dissatisfaction with most areas of life. Rather than accept it, I want to conquer it.

Two days of a little exercise is good, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I need to keep that up, but also start implementing more regimented things a little bit at a time. I can’t do it all in a day or a week or even a year, but I can make daily progress and this is part of it.

One major flaming mess in my life that needs cleaning up very badly is the entire way I go about my comedy business from a booking standpoint. I flat out SUCK at it, so it sure won’t be difficult to make major strides in a very short time. I can really use a fresh start.

Most entertainers absolutely despise both dealing with bookers and the whole booking process itself, myself included, but it’s a necessary evil so the smart thing to do is learn to embrace it. It really isn’t all that difficult, it’s a matter of persistence. It’s a sales process, and that’s not a bad thing. Some people sell widgets or doorknobs, I sell my comedy act.

I have a lot of self help audio, and I listened to a fantastic program today by one of my favorite authors named Joe Girard. He’s ‘the world’s greatest salesman’ because he sold cars for years and set all kinds of records. I like his approach and really listened to what he had to say with a whole new interest. It lit a fire under me and I need one about now.

Part of my problem is that I’ve achieved enough of a reputation where bookers now call me. That’s great in one way, but also stopped me from pushing myself to pursue the best gigs for the top pay in the best venues. I’ve always been able to get by with minor effort.

Now, I’m in a position where I need to totally revamp and reinvent myself. I can use an entire makeover of my sales prospects, press kit and sales package, method of contacting those who can book me, and schedule of when to do it. Waiting for a call out of the blue worked for a lot longer than it should have, and I’m lucky it did. Now I need some skills.

I can think of about ten bookers I could call immediately, and probably get some work just for calling. I haven’t been to Salt Lake City for Keith Stubbs at Wiseguys in a while, and there’s no reason for it other than I haven’t called him. He usually calls me, but he’s got a new baby and a radio show and he’s got his own life. He’d book me immediately.

He has a friend in Seattle, and I know I could get that one too. Calgary is another club I enjoy and haven’t been there in a while for no good reason. Houston is another. Nashville Zanies is another. Indianapolis. Reno. KC. These are just places I haven’t called in a long time. There’s a whole list of other places I’ve never called at all. I’ve got my work to do.