Posts Tagged ‘Ken Sevara’

Rock Star In Rockford

June 30, 2014

Friday June 27th, 2014 – Rockford, IL

Ah, a flash of the good old days. For at least one day I got to be in the comedian groove again. I’ve been out of it for a while, and it felt very much at home to be back. This is what I was born to do – at least the performance part. I got to work in a nice venue in front of a receptive crowd, and there were no long drives to make. This is exactly how I picture my comedy future to look.

Long time Chicago comedian Ken Sevara books monthly comedy shows at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Rockford, IL called Franchesco’s. I was the headliner for their opening night a few years ago, and it’s been a while since I’ve been back. I never bugged Ken about it, and that’s one of my problems. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the mix because there are so many comics.

He knew I did a killer job, and so did the staff. That was never the question. Quite a few of the staff that remembered me from that night walked up and said hello within ten seconds of walking in the door. I know they weren’t faking, because it’s a busy restaurant with lots of people coming and going all the time. They were sincere, and it felt very satisfying to have them remember me.

There was also a table of people that were there a full 45 minutes before the show that had seen me perform at a place called L.T.’s that ran weekly comedy shows for years. They said they had been waiting for me to come back to town, and didn’t want to miss it. I almost felt like a big star.

I also got to be on the radio this morning with “Stone and Double T” on WXRX, and they have always been fans and treat me great. Their station is probably not my demographic, but it’s still a lot of fun to be on with them so I always say yes whenever they ask. They’re both real people on the radio, and that is SO refreshing. If they were Bob and Tom, I would be a millionaire by now.

They’re not Bob and Tom, and Rockford isn’t Las Vegas – even though the actual room where they do the shows could easily be in Vegas. It’s a gorgeous facility, and has a separate and sound proof entrance from the bar and restaurant area so as to keep the showroom quiet during shows.

They have big screen TVs all over the room that say ‘Comedy Night’, and it’s a perfectly sized and proportioned room that seats probably 150ish. They can show clips of upcoming acts if they like, or list drink and food specials. Everything about this particular space is how it should be for all standup comedy shows, but rarely is. It’s a pleasure to work rooms like this whenever I can.

It’s EXACTLY the kind of venue I’d want to promote my own shows on a consistent basis, but they’re almost nonexistent. This one has just about everything anyone could want, including tons of free parking and a liquor license plus full menu of delicious food. There’s a lot to work with.

I would never infringe on Ken’s room, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just saying it has all the features I’d be looking for to do my own shows. Rockford may be a bit small to shoot for a weekly show anyway, and that’s important to know. It’s easy to burn out in a smaller town.

I’d love a place similar to this in Milwaukee to do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ more regularly, and one in the Chicago area wouldn’t hurt either. Even if I did weekends once a month and promoted the hell out of them I bet I’d develop a following sooner than later. This is the future of the business.

Franchesco's Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it's a 'bistro' or a 'ristorante', it's hard to go wrong. www.franchescos.com.

Franchesco’s Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it’s a ‘bistro’ or a ‘ristorante’, it’s hard to go wrong. http://www.franchescos.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called 'Fly By Night'. Find him at www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. Find him at http://www.kensevara.com.

'Stone and Double T' are two of the nicest - and most competent - radio people I have ever met. I'd do anything for those guys. www.wxrx.com.

‘Stone and Double T’ are two of the nicest – and most competent – radio people I have ever met. I’d do anything for those guys anytime. http://www.wxrx.com.

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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.

Good Deed, Good Day

October 27, 2013

Tuesday October 22nd, 2013 – Wilmette, IL

Any day I’m able to do a good deed is a good day. I know it sounds corny, but I mean it. That’s the only thing that has any lasting meaning, and I love it whenever I’m able to make a difference. Today I had a chance to help someone, and it worked out better than expected. It feels fantastic.

Mark Schiff is a very funny comedian, and I’ve been a fan for years. I first saw him in the early ‘80s, and I loved his style. He has had both an HBO and Showtime special, and he and comedian Ritch Shydner compiled a book of comedy road stories called “I Killed” in which I have a story.

If there’s one resource in which I am rich it’s comedy road stories. I’ve been around the block many times, and the story they chose to use was a time I was in Tuscaloosa, AL and challenged an audience that included some University of Alabama football players. I treaded on holy ground by insulting their dead football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and had to be escorted out of town.

That story is what indirectly got me kicked off of the Bob and Tom radio show in Indianapolis. I had a copy of the book with me, and Tom asked me what it was. I told him it was a compilation of comedy road stories and he asked if I was in it. When I said yes, he asked me to tell the story. I did exactly what he asked, and then everyone became furious and threw me out of the studio.

I still can’t figure out why they got so angry, but that put them over the edge. I have never been treated so poorly by anyone in radio or TV, and apparently I’m still in their doghouse to this day. I’ve tried to apologize several times, but they won’t hear of it. I think the whole thing is insane.

I was fortunate enough to cross paths with both Mark and Ritch when they were in the process of compiling the book, and it was a thrill to meet them both. Both of those guys were part of the generation right before me, and I knew both of their work extremely well. To have them treat me as a peer made me feel great, and both couldn’t have been nicer – the opposite of Bob and Tom.

Mark is the co-author of a funny new play called “Marriage Is A Bout”, which delves into two couples that are friends and all that goes on with their marriages. One couple is Jewish while the other is Gentile. They had a run through with the actors at the Wilmette Theatre in Wilmette, IL tonight, and Mark invited me to be part of it and asked if I knew anyone else that I could invite.

I happen to know some very talented and creative people, and I got the word out for him. One of those who showed up was Vicki Quade. She’s got several successful productions going on in Chicago and all over including “Late Night Catechism” and “Put The Nuns In Charge”. I was in Vicki’s “You’re On The Air” play with Jerry Agar, Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara and it was fun.

Teme Ring is a gifted comedy writer, and she and her husband Jeff were able to attend along with Rick Young who is an actor in the area. They all enjoyed the show as did I, and afterward Mark and the crew sat around and took input from anyone who wanted to give their opinions.

I know it helped Mark, and I’m delighted I was able to get such a creative bunch to come out and support. It was a fun experience all around, and Mark thanked me profusely. It was no big deal, and I was glad to do it. I learned a lot myself of how the process goes. This was a win/win.

Comedian Mark Schiff - one of the all time greats. www.markschiff.com

Comedian Mark Schiff – one of the all time greats. http://www.markschiff.com

An Impromptu Reunion

October 5, 2013

Friday October 4th, 2013 – Rockford, IL

When I was on the radio with Jerry Agar, Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara as “Jerry’s Kidders”, we had a super fan name Fard (pronounced ‘Fa-RAHD’) Muhammad who we all came to consider a friend. He’s a super guy and very intelligent, and we have all stayed in touch for several years.

Fard is also a rabid fan of Dennis Miller, and managed to score four tickets to Dennis’ show at the gorgeous Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL tonight and asked if the Kidders would join him. Tim, Ken and I all happened to have the night free so we arranged an impromptu Kidder reunion.

The four of us rode in one car and busted balls the whole way there and back. It was a night of big fun and laughs all around, and everyone was in a great mood. This wasn’t something we had planned for very long, it just kind of came together in a couple of days. That made it even better.

We made it to Rockford with plenty of time to spare, and settled in our seats at the spectacular Coronado Theatre. That’s one of the most gorgeous old theatres I’ve ever seen, and being able to see it in person made the trip worthwhile even if there wasn’t a show to go with it. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. It’s got to be on a list of the top architecture in America. It’s a true gem.

Our seats were eighth row center, and Dennis came out at 7:30 sharp. He might have even been a couple of minutes early, which doesn’t usually happen for any live entertainment. There wasn’t an opening act, and I found that a bit odd too. Usually in larger theatre situations there is a warm up act of some kind to focus the crowd’s attention. Ken, Tim or I would have loved that chance.

None of us were upset, as we were there to relax and enjoy the show. We all happened to enjoy Dennis, and not everyone does. He tends to polarize people, but that’s what great entertainers do. People love Dennis Miller or they can’t stand him – and I can see why. It’s like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers. There are rabid fans in one camp, and those that couldn’t get far enough away.

What I love about Dennis Miller is his unbridled gratuitous use of adjectives. He paints picture after vividly descriptive picture, and does it with distinct rhythm. I love watching him work, and he made us laugh out loud numerous times despite the fact he was fighting a nasty cold all night.

Most of the audience had no clue how difficult that can be, but Tim, Ken and I have all been on stage when we were fighting the crud and knew exactly what he was going through. That made it all the more interesting to watch, but he still delivered and made us laugh. That’s a professional.

After the show we had a world class meal at Franchesco’s Italian Ristorante where Ken books comedy shows of his own. We relaxed and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, and it was a perfect night from start to finish. We had nothing but laughs and fun, and wondered why every night couldn’t be like this. It’s not and never will be, so that’s why it’s important to savor every second of this.

Sometimes things just all work out – even for Mr. Lucky. If every day were like this I probably wouldn’t be a comic, but that’s ok. I’d have a lot less stress in my life, but I’d gladly blaze a new career path accordingly. I’m sure Dennis Miller has stress too, but that’s what comedians do. We help others forget about their troubles for a while, even though we’ve got a full load of our own.

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word - WOW!

The spectacular Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. In a word – WOW!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don't. I happen to think he's great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Like stinky cheese or hot chili peppers, people love Dennis Miller or they totally don’t. I happen to think he’s great, and he made me laugh out loud all night in Rockford. Thanks Dennis!

Chicago Radio Superfan turned  friend Fard Muhammad

Chicago Radio Superfan turned friend Fard Muhammad

Tim Slagle - his CD 'Europa' is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. www.timslagle.com

Tim Slagle – his CD ‘Europa’ is a must for all fans of intelligent comedy. http://www.timslagle.com

Ken Sevara - check out his radio show 'Fly By Night' on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. www.kensevara.com

Ken Sevara – check out his radio show ‘Fly By Night’ on AM 560 WIND in Chicago. http://www.kensevara.com

Summer Survival

August 9, 2013

Thursday August 8th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   Christmas came early this week, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I picked up some last minute work in St. Charles, IL at Zanies Comedy Club in Pheasant Run Resort and that will allow me to squeak by and pay yet another month’s bills. That and another last minute add at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake, IL next Friday will get me by. I have survived another summer – but just barely.

   This absolutely needs to stop, even though I have no idea as to how. Comedy in the summer in the North is death, and always has been. This is nothing new, but I should have figured out a way to hedge that bet by now. It’s like a school teacher knowing summer is coming every year. There needs to be a plan in place, but I’ve been too busy surviving all of the other months to make one.

   All I’m asking for is ONE major run somewhere at some point. North America would be great, but I’d settle for anywhere up to and including Helsinki, Hong Kong or the Island of Gibraltar. A successful six month tour of 1000-2000 seat venues anywhere would put me in a far better space financially, but try as I might I haven’t been able to make that happen and it’s frustrating as hell.

   I read where Jim Gaffigan just played a larger venue in Milwaukee tonight, and I have to say it bummed me out. I have nothing against Jim Gaffigan, but he’s of my comic generation and I feel strongly that the people that like him or Louis CK would like me too. But how do I get to them?

   I did a show tonight with Ken Sevara and Vince Maranto at Zanies for maybe 50 people. It was a very solid show and I was glad to get the work on short notice, but it would have been so much nicer to play the venue Jim Gaffigan played. Talent isn’t the issue. This is a matter of marketing.

   Vince and Ken have been doing comedy even longer than me, and we talked about exactly that before our show. They were delighted to get the summer work too, and nobody was complaining about that. We just wanted to know what it takes to get over that hump and be a legitimate draw.

   Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK are big draws, and I take nothing away from either of them. I know what it took performance wise to get where they are, but business wise I don’t know where to get started looking. What do I do, call up managers and ask if they want to handle a potential star?

   I might even be willing to try that if indeed I knew who to call, but alas I don’t have a hint of a clue who that might be. What I do know how to do is give good shows, and I did it again tonight. We all did. I’m hosting this week, and that’s a splendid opportunity to break in some new ideas.

   In reality, I never have to come up with another joke or bit as long as I live. I’ve done that for a lifetime, and can thoroughly entertain most comedy audiences anywhere without a hitch. The rub has been trying to get my name out so at least a percentage of the population will want to see me.

   Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK have their chunk of fans, and it’s enough for them to sell out 2500-3000 seat venues all across North America. I would settle for smaller ones, but that’s still plenty of fan base to provide financial security and artistic satisfaction. How do I make that happen?

   It won’t happen this week, but at least I’m working somewhere and glad to get it. I’ll use every second of stage time at Zanies to improve my act, so if and when my shot at bigger venues does come I’ll be even more ready than I am now – and I am. I may be the only one that knows it, but I definitely am. All I need is just ONE person with power that will take a chance. Who will it be?

Day Of Distraction

July 4, 2013

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL/Libertyville, IL

   Every time I try to get a solid day’s work in, my phone rings and I get sidetracked. Today I got two more calls that took me off course. I suppose I could have said no to both, but that wouldn’t have been the right decision. My sky high pile of things to do will have to wait yet one more day.

   My first stop was the studios of WIND radio in Arlington Heights, IL. Ken Sevara hosts a talk show called ‘Fly By Night’ which runs at midnight on Sunday mornings, and he had a fallout for a guest. I’ve done the show before, and it’s a lot of fun. Publicity is always good, and it was also a chance to help someone and I try to do that whenever I can. It’s points on the old karma board.

   We recorded the show and it went very well, as we both knew it would. It’s not a matter of the ability to be entertaining, it’s everything else. Ken brokers the air time from the station, and has to come up with sponsors every week. He’s doing exactly what I was doing with the Mothership Connection on WLIP, only he’s on a bigger station for a shorter time. Still, there are bills to pay.

   Ken is much better suited to do a show like that than I am, as he’s a master salesman. He has a flair for everything I don’t, and this is a good fit for him. Does anyone listen? Who knows? That isn’t always as important as being able to tell a client “Hey, come be a guest on my radio show.”

   I get that, but what if anything actually makes a difference? Ken, Tim Slagle and I were on two major radio stations in Chicago doing our ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ segment, and that didn’t make us one nickel. It was great fun and I have to believe someone heard it, but it didn’t translate into dollars. Was it worth doing? Again, that’s hard to say. On a fun level, yes. On a money level, it bombed.

   I hope Ken’s show is a huge success, and he seems to be doing very well with it. He’s getting a variety of sponsors, but he has to go out and sell them. He has the ideal personality for it, where I don’t. He loves to get out and press the flesh, whereas I like to do my show and keep to myself.

   My next stop was Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL to audition for a speaking role in a film of all things. It’s a small role, but a film role nonetheless. I’ve done a couple of things in the past as far as acting, but nothing major. I’ve had bit parts in two other films, and both were very fun.

   This role is of a pompous but clueless security guard, and I went over my lines most of the day. There aren’t many, but I’ve always been horrible at memorizing lines. Even in my comedy, I’ve always been pretty loose as a rule, and I like to be free to ad lib. That’s not the way acting works.

   I won’t be upset if I don’t get the part, but I think it would be fun and productive to do it. I got the call from David Stuart at Improv Playhouse, and he’s the guy in charge. He’s got his hand in the local acting and improv scenes, and strongly suggested that I get myself a new headshot and register with a talent agency. I’ve never pursued that angle, but it wouldn’t hurt to go that route.

   They film commercials and movies in Chicago all the time, and I’ve heard of other comedians getting hired for bit parts in the past. It just wasn’t something I felt a calling to do. I was an extra in the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’ with Sandra Bullock, and it was pretty boring actually.

   Acting is mostly a bunch of standing around, and that never thrilled me. I do trust David as far as his credibility, and he strongly suggests I pursue it. We’ll see if I get this part, and then I’ll go from there. I have enough other things I need to do without one more project. I could use a clone.

My movie debut...for about six seconds.

My movie debut…for about six seconds.

Clearing The Air

May 16, 2013

Wednesday May 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I got up much earlier than I had intended to this morning to do a comedy segment on the ‘Stone and Double T Show’ on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I really like those guys, and we usually do a weekly call in bit on Monday mornings. We missed this week, so they rescheduled it today.

   I have mixed feelings about doing that show, but it’s fun so if they keep calling I’ll keep doing it. The guys themselves are great, but I’m not sure if anyone who listens to that station likes what I do. It’s really hard edged rock, and that’s just not my audience as a rule. I try to be entertaining, but I’ve never once had anyone come to any show I’ve done saying they’d heard me on ‘The X’.

   Does that mean I should stop doing it? That’s a tough call. It doesn’t hurt to get radio exposure, but it’s not helping either. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on the wrong radio stations, and I think some of my best work has fallen on deaf ears. It’s discouraging, but that’s how it’s been.

    I still can’t believe I’ve worked for THREE country radio stations. Yikes. I’m not a fan of that genre at all, even though I grew to respect it during my tenure. That’s not my audience either, but those are the stations I was able to get jobs so that’s where I went. It makes me have doubts as to the competence of radio in general if they’d hire me three times at country stations, but they did.

   I’m also experiencing serious doubts about continuing to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Again, it’s great fun but who’s listening? It’s a small station in Kenosha, WI with a weak night time signal. We do have a certain amount of loyal listeners every week who hear us live and a few more on the net, but is it enough to keep doing it? I’d think not.

   I wish the show came with a paycheck, but it doesn’t. How can I generate one? I don’t have the slightest idea. I have a meeting with John Perry from the station tomorrow and we’ll either come up with a plan to earn some money or I’ll shake his hand and thank him for the fun opportunity.

   The ultimate goal is to get on a station that fits my personality, and find a way to stay on the air and get paid. That’s proven to be a whole lot easier said than done, but unfortunately being taken off the air has not been my fault. If I could manage to put together a nice run somewhere that has a listener base in my wheel house, I’ll be set for life. But I’d also be set for life if I hit the lottery.

   Unfortunately, the odds seem to be about the same. Every time I get on a station that would be a fit, something happens to end it prematurely. ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was a perfect fit, but just as we were starting to get some legs we got fired. Then I was part of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ with Jerry Agar, Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle on both WLS and WGN in Chicago. That was also a winner.

   Had Jerry not been blown out the door, we’d still be on the air and have that coveted following I’ve not been able to attain no matter how hard I’ve tried. For some reason, I just haven’t had the chance to gel at a place that fits. I love being on with Stone and Double T, but they’re not where I’m ever going to get any mass recognition. If they were Bob and Tom, I’d be a national draw.

   I have a hard time figuring out where the radio business is headed as a whole. It’s always been insane, but there was a certain air of mystery about it. Local programming was plentiful and of a high quality. Now everything is pre recorded in another city and it’s very impersonal. I’d love to have a steady job somewhere, but I don’t know of any that exist. The Stone and Double T shows of the world are becoming rarer and rarer, and that’s a shame. Radio’s best days are behind it.

New Old Material

February 3, 2013

Friday February 1st, 2013 – Frankfort, IL

   Comedians and non comedians alike are constantly obsessed with who has ‘new material’, and it’s a waste of time. It’s natural to want to grow and expand, but there first needs to be rock solid old material on which to build. That takes years of work, and it’s a lot harder than it may appear.

Comedians of the Vaudeville era would often do virtually the same act for forty and fifty years, even though that might be a little obsessive in the other direction for today’s needs. What I mean by getting ‘old’ material is having pieces that are polished and can be performed automatically in any situation without having to think about them. Those don’t come overnight to any performer.

Standup comedy is not natural in that nobody gets up in the morning and plans what they’ll say to their spouse or their boss or the people at work. Conversation is spontaneous. Standup comedy gives the ILLUSION of one just making up one funny line after the next on cue without effort.

Real life just doesn’t work like that, even though when it’s done well standup comedy gives the false impression it does. A good comedian makes it look effortless when in fact it’s anything but. The public doesn’t know that and doesn’t care, but smart eyes and ears know comedy is a craft.

I performed with Mike Preston tonight at ‘CD & ME’ in Frankfort, IL. That’s a gig Ken Sevara has been booking for several years now, and although it’s always fun there are a lot of regulars in the audience. They only do comedy seasonally, and Ken likes to use the same core group of acts.

I totally get what Ken is doing, and it makes perfect sense. It’s not a comedy club per se, and to constantly bring in new people for a one night part time gig would be virtually impossible. It’s an economics thing, and the people he brings in are very good acts. It’s been a win/win for all of us.

That being said, I like to purposely switch my set around in situations like this because I know there will be a certain amount of people who will have seen me before and I like to make it fresh for both them and me. I might do some of the same bits, but I change the order and add new ones whenever possible. When I can keep them on guard it’s good for everyone as it keeps us all alert.

There’s no law that says I have to do that, and some comedians do the exact same jokes they’ll always do in the exact same order, even though they know they’ve done it at the exact same club. There gets to be a fine line between consistency and laziness, and it takes effort to identify where it is. Some acts will walk through their set to get the money. I’ve always tried to be a bit deeper.

I like to know where I am and who may or may not have seen me before. There are people who like to see the same bits again, and I’m to the point where I get requests from regulars to do some bits like ‘Doris The Porkasaurus’ or ‘The Greyhound Bus’. When asked, I’ll always try to oblige.

Tonight I went back into my archives and did some material I haven’t done in years. I can’t say why, but I knew it would work so I did it. And it did. A group who has seen me often came up to me after the show and said how much they enjoyed all of my ‘new’ material. If they only knew.

Welcome To Kansas

September 23, 2012

Friday September 22nd, 2012 – St. Charles, IL

   It’s great to have friends with connections. That’s what life is all about. ‘Who you know’ really does make a difference, even though I never look to abuse it. I like people because I like them as individuals – not for what they can do for me. That’s probably not smart, but at least it’s sincere.

One of my favorite bands of all time Kansas had a concert at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL tonight and my friend Rick Piccolo got me in to see it. He has been friends with Phil Ehart the drummer since the ‘70s, and it was no problem for him to score the tickets. That’s how it works.

Rick is also friends with fellow comedian and former Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara, and he joined us as well. I had no idea Ken was coming, and it was a pleasant surprise to see him when I got to the theatre. Ken has booked me for several quality shows in the past year or so, and that has been another good connection. I got him into the Kidders, so I have been a connection for him as well.

That’s how it’s supposed to work in my opinion, but it often doesn’t. When it does, everything just feels right and that’s how it was tonight. Rick and Ken are both laid back great guys, and the three of us turned off the bitch-o-meter and had fun. We weren’t on stage tonight, Kansas was.

Nobody enjoys quality entertainment more than another entertainer, and we loved every minute of the show. Rick and Ken are both former drummers, so they liked it on a whole other level than I did. I have never played one note of music in my life, but I certainly understand showmanship.

Kansas puts on a fantastic show on every level. The stage was decorated with a giant backdrop of an image of their first album cover, and they had a stellar light show too. They looked like the headliners they are. They commanded the stage, and they gave the audience what they paid for.

What I found fascinating was how they presented each song with freshness and enthusiasm like they hadn’t played them 10,000 times before. I knew every song in their set, and it wasn’t all that different from the show I saw in the same theatre maybe two years ago. They didn’t phone it in.

I know how easy it can be to get stuck in a comedy rut, and the same jokes night after night can really get stale in a hurry. I’ve always been one to switch things around frequently if for no other reason than it keeps me on my toes while I’m performing. I don’t think a band can be that loose.

They were sure on their game tonight, and the crowd went nuts as well they should. They were able to let it rip in front of a theatre full of fans who were there to see them do it, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do myself. I saw that theory in action tonight, and it was fun for everyone.

After the show, Rick got us backstage to say hello to Phil. I met him last time, and since then I heard his wife is originally from Milwaukee so I gave him a ‘Schlitz Happened!’ t-shirt that has a lot of local jokes on it that she’ll get and he won’t. He was very gracious and Ken and I didn’t want to bother him because we understand how it is after a show. We gave him and Rick time to catch up, and politely thanked him for the tickets. Life sure can be fun when it works like this.