Posts Tagged ‘Ken Sevara’

A Sixty Minute Success

July 4, 2010

Saturday July 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Dyer, IN

Jerry Agar called and asked if I wanted to be on the air with him today as he had a shift on the radio. We weren’t able to do a Kidders show because Ken Sevara’s voice is acting up and Tim Slagle was preparing for his yearly 4th of July weekend party he likes to host.

Any time I have a chance to spend an hour on WGN radio in Chicago, I take it. That’s a monster station, and it’s always worth being on it because of the exposure to hundreds of thousands of people all over the Midwest I’d likely never get in front of any other way.

That truly is a broadcast, going out all over the place to all different types of people. It’s an opportunity to do a sixty minute commercial for myself I’d never be able to pay for, so that’s a chance I had to take. I know I have projects going, but this was worth my time.

Jerry decided it would be a good topic to talk about traveling America for the 4th of July week so he picked the right person to kick it off. I bet I’ve seen more of the United States than 99.999% of anyone other than truck drivers or hitch hikers. I’ve spent my entire life on the road, and seen all four corners of the continent and most every crevice in between.

We had a fun segment, and it lit up the phones. That’s the great thing about a big station like that, virtually ANY subject will light up the phones because it relates to someone that happens to have a radio on. We didn’t need phones though, Jerry and I know what to do.

We used to go off on stuff like this all the time when we first met twenty years ago back at AM 1480 WFXW, the tiny station he worked at in St. Charles, IL. That station isn’t on the air anymore, but we sure had fun while it was. We knew nobody was listening, but we still tried to do entertaining radio anyway. We used to dream of being on WGN someday.

Neither one of us are rich or famous on a large scale, but we sure did live our dreams of being on WGN. Had someone told either one of us twenty years ago we’d achieve that, it probably would have blown our minds right out of our ear. I enjoyed every minute of our time on the air today, even if it wasn’t exactly the way we thought it would be. It was fun.

Jerry has to be back in Toronto and I am doing what I’m doing, but for an hour we were exactly where we dreamed of twenty years ago. Yes, the Kidders were and are a blast, but this is what we both wanted back then – the two of us bantering back and forth on WGN.

Jerry had to be on the air until 9pm, but I left and went to Tim Slagle’s house in Indiana for his yearly blowing up of mass quantities of legal fireworks. Ken Sevara also came out with his wife Lori and Jerry showed up after his shift. We had a Kidders reunion anyway.

We all know we could probably be doing better, but we could all be doing worse too. It was great to be together as a group, and we enjoyed blowing up all the heavy artillery Tim bought. Good times with good friends are never a bad investment. I spent this day well.

Kipper And Kidders

June 23, 2010

Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

Jerry’s Kidders are back together…even if it was only for a single lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We hadn’t seen each other in way too long, and even though Jerry Agar wasn’t able to join us, it was still great to see the Kidders. We still have a solid chemistry.

The reason we chose the Brat Stop is because it’s in between Milwaukee where Kipper McGee lives and the far south side of Chicago where Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle happen to live. I’m right in the middle so I had the shortest drive of all, and of course I was late.

The guys started busting my chops before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and that reminded us all of why we had so much fun for two years. We enjoyed being on the radio but the lunches and hanging out were always a huge part of the deal. It was our own little tree house, and everyone felt welcome. We all knew immediately how much we miss it.

Kipper McGee was our program director at WLS, and I told the guys then we’d never have such a supportive situation as far as radio goes. Kipper was in our corner and still is. He gave us the chance to grow as a team on the air, and he never squelched the creativity like way too many other clueless control freak program directors love to do. He got us.

It’s such a shame that radio is so trigger happy to fire competent people and allows the goof balls to remain employed. Kipper McGee is a brilliant radio programmer with a soul to boot, and he gets blown out the door of WLS while the corporate honcho named Farid or Farouk or Farout or Feng Shui or whatever his name is continues to ruin the company.

That story is WAY too common in radio, and I’m sick of it as are Kipper and the other Kidders as well. We got booted off the station when Jerry did, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t still be there. Now he’s had to split up his family and go work in Toronto.

We didn’t dwell too much on the negative though. We knew we don’t get the chance to see each other in one place much anymore so we spent most of our lunch looking back at the fun times we had and laughing uproariously. There were some real moments with us.

We also talked about how we can keep the project going. It’s a lot of fun to sit around a studio and fire off lines about news stories of the week, and when we were on our game it was pure electricity. None of us want it to end like this, but what do we do to reignite it?

Jerry is going to be in Toronto for the foreseeable future, and that’s just how it is. We’re not angry, we all know he needs to turn a buck. We all do. How can we do it with a show that does current events jokes for an hour each week? That’s a tall order and we know it.

Still, there’s no reason we can’t reinvent ourselves and that’s what we bounced around the table. Kipper knows a lot of people in radio, and he still believes in us as a team. He’s of the opinion we should try to stay on in Chicago, and we all agree. But where? WGN is the logical choice, but Jerry hasn’t been on so neither have we. Still, it was a fun lunch.

Monday Money

May 5, 2010

Monday May 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Speak of the devil. Yesterday I read of Jay Leno’s difficulty having to perform in a very awkward situation, and lo and behold today I get to do it myself. Again, nothing new. I’ve been doing it my entire adult life. It goes with the territory of being a full time comedian.

Money comes when it does in comedy, but it’s always welcome. Most shows happen at night in some sort of venue that’s hopefully done comedy before. Even those can be a bit tricky at times, but then there’s the other kind of bookings that have no parameters at all.

Those can and do occur any and everyplace from a flimsy tent to a garage to who knows where? I still recall the time I had to stand on a diving board of a swimming pool in some lawyer’s back yard in Madison, WI for a performance that ended with me walking off the ‘stage’ after a drunken oaf in the pool kept splashing me while I was trying to do my act.

Another time I had to perform in the hallway of a hospital floor so people in the rooms could look out and see the show. One guy started groaning in pain, and they ended up just closing his door and telling me to ‘ignore it and finish my skit’. It was a major disaster for everyone, and I had to do thirty minutes as I remember. I’d rather be in bed as a patient.

I’ve worked on moving buses, floating boats, and on top of a picnic table in 100 degree heat at a sleazy carnival in Tucson, AZ not far from the tilt-a-whirl. Why did I attempt all these insane stunts? I needed the money. Still do. I thought I’d have it figured out by now.

Today I was asked to do a show for the business operators of Orland Hills, IL. They had a luncheon meeting and somehow word got out they wanted to hire a comedian. I heard of it from my friend Dennis Ross who lives in New Jersey of all places. How he got the gig I have no clue, but he asked if I wanted it and of course I said yes. Monday money is sweet.

That’s one day of the week most comedians don’t get paid, so any time anyone can turn a buck on a Monday, life is good. That’s the reason I host the shows at Zanies and also try to schedule comedy classes, so I can save the rest of the week for other work that doesn’t always come as often as I like. It’s a common struggle for all performers to stay working.

The people of Orland Hills were very friendly, from the mayor to the Chief of Police to all the other people who went up before me. The audience was diverse, mostly over thirty and needed to get back to work. I had to hit them hard but keep it very clean and stand on a podium with a short microphone leash and a less than stellar sound system. That’s hard.

I’ve learned to deal with these situations over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill every time. I have very high standards and if someone hires me I want to give them as good a show as humanly possible. Yes I like being paid, but I really do want to earn my money. I feel bad if anyone would feel cheated, but in these kind of gigs it’s very difficult to get a true roll going, only because there are too many obstacles in the way from having to deal with bad sound to being in a room where there are windows and sunlight shining.

The person who buys the comedian is always the one I try to please, and this time it was a very nice lady who was very easy to deal with the whole time. I know she had to present the idea to a committee, who in turn had to find some alternate choices, and then they had a vote and I won. That’s usually how it works, and I never want to let those buyers down.

If even ONE person complains, it can be a disaster for those people. I’ve gotten several over the years, but all comedians do. There’s a very fine line with some people as to what is considered entertainment and what is considered offensive. Usually the people who are the most offended are the ones who had nothing to do with the process of hiring anyone.

The mayor of Orland Hills set the tone, and luckily he was a very laid back and likeable gentleman named Kyle Hastings. He wasn’t the typical stodgy boring mayor type and he’s a natural on stage. I was glad that he brought me up, but he attended to local business first so it got to be a little longer than expected. The degree of difficulty was extremely high.

I wanted to represent Dennis Ross proudly, because he’s a good guy and didn’t have to call me for this gig. I wanted to please the lady named Karen who called me because she was very nice and booking entertainers isn’t her job. I’d hate to make her look bad. I also thought the mayor and Chief of Police were good laughers and wanted them to enjoy it.

I saw some blank looks on some of the rest of them, but I kept on going. I know most of them had never been to a comedy show before, and they had no clue I was going to be on the docket for their meeting. I don’t blame them, but I still wanted them to have some fun anyway. Nobody was mean, and I did my best. I closed on my regular closer and got off.

I usually try to stay and at least thank a few people who don’t avoid eye contact with me but today I was in a hurry to attend a meeting with the other guys in Jerry’s Kidders as we haven’t seen each other in a while as Jerry has been filling in on a big station in Toronto.

Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle live way south so as long as I was in the area it was wise for us to reconvene and reassess where we are as a group. We agreed that we’re probably in a position of transition right now and the possibility exists we could be finished as an entity especially if Jerry gets a full time job offer. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to use us up there.

We’ve still got the play “You’re On The Air” we wrote with Vicki Quade and if Jerry is not here we can still rework that, but it will take lots of time and money and effort to get a quality product polished and ready to sell. I don’t think we’re ready to do that at this time, but we definitely could do some standup shows in the WGN listening area as the Kidders.

Ken and Tim are really good guys to work with, and we all have fun doing the Kidders. We all wish we could have a steady local outlet in Chicago like we did at WLS. We were on Mondays at a set time, and even though we didn’t make money it was still a sweet gig.

We put ourselves in a position to earn money, but it never came. We were yanked off the air at WLS when Jerry got fired, and then WGN started moving Jerry all around and that in turn moved us all around. Now we’re sitting around waiting to go back and do it again.

Three Times A Kidder

February 28, 2010

Saturday February 27th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

“You’re On The Air!” starring Jerry’s Kidders performed live for the third time tonight at The Irish Heritage Center on the north side of Chicago. Even though 99.99999% of the planet, country, state or city couldn’t have cared any less – we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

We’re in a very difficult situation and it’s too bad, as there really is something with this concept. The show is funny, and I’m not saying that just because I’m in it. We hadn’t put a lot of time and effort into it since our last performance at the Beverly Arts Center, but it all fell together again as we started rehearsing. We ended up having our best show yet.

Too bad the circumstances weren’t the greatest. We had a lot to overcome, but we made up our minds we weren’t going to complain until after the show. We kept it all positive in a situation where it could have easily gotten ugly very quickly. I was proud of everyone.

There was a lot of miscommunication all around. When we arrived at the venue was the first time we discovered there wasn’t a light and sound technician, nor was there a way to do blackouts between scenes. Our show is written that way, so we were in quite a pickle.

Also, the stage was WAY smaller than we were expecting, and backstage availability to change costumes between scenes wasn’t available either. It was a major bomb on all of us and it would have been very easy to just can it and not do it at all. Tim Slagle, Ken Sevara and I calmly talked about it and decided this was what we had to work with so we’d do it.

That was a conscious decision we all made as a group, and nobody raised their voices or whined about it after that. Jerry Agar was out of town all week filling in on a radio station in Toronto so he can keep his house, so nobody can fault him for that. He showed up later and we all decided we were going to pull off a show no matter what, and we actually did.

The room we were in was gorgeous, and for a standup show it would have been stellar. I’d still love to do a standup show in there at some point, but for our play it was a difficult fit. The lighting wasn’t made for what we were doing and all around it was an adjustment we all had to make on the fly. It wasn’t convenient, but our options were extremely few.

The performance part ended up being really fun. We had our fans Fard Muhammad and John Vass and precious few others, and we appreciated them all. Those who did show up were great laughers, and they rolled with the circumstances and we ended up having fun.

I couldn’t be any more grateful for the fans we do have, and it’s a pleasure to be with an outstanding group of guys to work with in Jerry, Ken and Tim. For only our third show, it was not without it’s moments. We ad libbed some lines and we all felt ourselves growing.

Still, the reality is I don’t know how much longer we can keep doing these shows. This is getting to be an expensive hobby. We all took off comedy work to do this and nobody will be getting rich this week. Fun is fun, and this was, but we’ve got to turn a buck soon.

Something’s Missing

February 21, 2010

Saturday February 20th, 2010 – Racine, WI

Will any work I do ever satisfy me? The older I get, the more I‘m doubting it. I’m trying to enjoy shows more, but sometimes I just can’t lower my standards. When I’m on stage, I want to send people into a new dimension of time and space. I aspire to knock socks off.

Most of it is for the audience, but part of it is for me too. I am a huge fan of all kinds of entertainment, and I know how difficult it is to do it correctly. I’ve seen good and bad and also myself been good and bad, so I know the difference. I want to blow audiences away.

Lately, by all accounts I’ve been doing exactly that. Even more people than usual have come up to me after shows telling me they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I love hearing them say that, and I’m sincere when I thank them, but I know I’m still not there.

Last night at CD&ME in Frankfort, IL was a very good example. My friend and fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara told me the crowd loved me, and I think they did, but I wasn’t at all satisfied with my show. They loved their part, but mine was not up to my standards. I felt like a couple of cylinders weren’t firing, and I wanted the overdrive gear to kick in.

Sometimes, an audience just can’t laugh any more. They’ve given all they have, and no matter how hard a comedian works, that’s the best anyone can do. I’ve gotten to that point countless times, but I still think I can get more. Hearing a large crowd pop with a big hard   crisp hearty laugh is a drug, and it never gets old. It’s an explosion of energy and I love it.

Tonight was another example. I did a show at the Racine Theatre Guild with my old pal Steve DeClark. It’s a wonderful facility and I was there with Steve last year too. We had a hot audience then, and tonight’s was right there with them. They were polite and listening the whole time and there were no drunken outbursts. In other words, it was a dream night.

Lou Rugani from WLIP came out along with Mark Gumbinger, the director of the film ‘Dead Air’ in which Lou is the star and I have a part. Carol Strempler is a regular listener to WLIP and calls in to both Lou’s show and The Mothership Connection, and she’s also in the movie. They all made it a point to come out and see me and I was very flattered.

The whole staff at the Racine Theatre Guild couldn’t have been any nicer, and these are the kinds of shows I’ve always dreamed of doing. There might not have been jam packed houses of thousands of people, but those who did come were as good as a crowd can get.

I loved performing for them, and I gave them everything I had. I got several pops during the show and at the end a large number gave me a standing ovation. What a rush that was! I knew they meant it and I bowed low in gratitude and meant that too. They were the best.

So why am I still not satisfied? I’m not. Grateful? Yes! Satisfied? Uh uh. I just feel I’m able to improve significantly, and I’m not up to my standards even though those who saw it this weekend enjoyed it. I’m glad they did, but I know I can do better. Time to prove it.

This really bothered me as I drove home tonight, and I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been on a red hot run lately and I should be on top of the world. I’ve had a lot of comedians tell me recently how they keep hearing my name being mentioned and how strong my shows are.

That’s really nice to hear, but it’s even better to hear people say I’ve helped them along the way and given them advice when they started. That means even more. I try very hard to be a quality person, but I know there are still those who think I’m a card carrying wank. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I’ve tried to right all my wrongs, but a few just won’t let me.

Some of those people are in my own family. My sister lives in Racine, or at least I think she still does. She hasn’t spoken to me in going on 17 years now, and I doubt if I’ll get an opportunity to ever turn that situation around. That’s really sad and in a perfect world she would have been at the show tonight laughing with everyone else. But that didn’t happen.

We should have had a great dinner and some laughs before the show, and all her friends and neighbors could have come out to enjoy themselves also. I’m at the top of my game, and it’s taken a lifetime of sacrifice to get to this point – and I’m still not satisfied with it. Something deep down inside tells me I’m not doing everything I can to be my very best.

Part of it is knowing a lot of the mistakes I made are too late to correct. They’ve helped shape where I am now, and had I known better I’d have chosen differently. Other things I did know better but wasn’t able to choose differently. Living in L.A. is an example. I was out of money when I lived there and it would have been stupid to stay. I never went back.

There are plenty of other boo boos on my resume too, but through all of them I’ve never given up. I’m still out here slugging. I may have my enemies, and I may be my own worst one at times, but I’m still in the game and as long as that’s true I have the chance to win.

Now I have to figure out exactly what I think that would be. I used to think it would be attaining headliner status and working places like The Racine Theatre Guild for people in soft seats who came out to be entertained. That happened tonight, but it wasn’t enough. It was still hollow after the show when everyone was gone and I was by myself in the car.

A feeling of  extreme emptiness came over me as I hoped I haven’t wasted my life. I’ve had to struggle so hard to get where I am that I haven’t had a chance to really take a good long objective look at what I’ve done right. I’ve always been too busy fixing my mistakes.

I’m the first one to admit I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid. My mistakes are part of my past but I’ve done a lot of smart things too. My life has been an odd mix and even I don’t have a clue sometimes as to where I’m going or what will make me happy. That’s pretty dumb.

I’ve always been the happiest when I’m able to give something to someone who enjoys it. If I can help someone by teaching a class or offering encouragement or just being their friend I always try to do it. Maybe I’m not doing it enough, and that’s why I feel so empty right now. Maybe it’s a part of growing as an artist, but I feel I’m not where I want to be.

Romance And Radio

February 15, 2010

Sunday February 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Valentine’s Day can be the source of a lot of angst. Everyone wants to have that perfect mix of sex and romance with that ultimate partner, which probably doesn’t exist on Earth for anyone. Men want sex, women want romance and Hallmark wants us all to buy cards.

I read somewhere that there are a significant number of those who send themselves mail and/or flowers on significant holidays, especially Valentine’s Day. At first it shocked me, but then I remembered how the Valentine’s Day greeting card system worked in school.

I wonder if they still do that? We used to decorate our little bags and hang them up on a wall in our classroom, and the kids would drop little Valentine’s cards in the bag. My first crush in about third grade was a little blondie named Holly Lueck. I don’t know why I can still remember her name, but I do. It’s like Charlie Brown and that little red haired girl.

My heart ached for Holly, but I never really got to know her at all. I remember she made me stutter and stammer to be around her, and I never felt like that around anyone before. I remember picking out a special Valentine for her and decorating it with my own personal cartoons, as I fancied myself an ‘artiste’ back then. I put the card in her bag and waited.

I waited some more. And some more after that. Every day I’d come to school and scour  my bag, hoping I’d gotten one back from Holly, or even one that MIGHT have been from her. We had them sealed and were not allowed to open them until Valentine’s Day, when the entire class would do it together. No other Valentine meant anything except Holly’s.

Finally, Valentine’s Day came and the teacher let us take our bags off the wall and open our cards. Some kids got more than others, but a couple got shut out completely. That’s a hard pill to have to swallow at age 8 or 9, and I can remember feeling bad for those kids.

I didn’t get the goose egg, but I also didn’t get one from Holly for whatever reason. The smack to the self esteem resonates to this day as I looked over to where she was sitting at her desk and saw her opening her pile of Valentines and stuffing candy into her pie hole.

I wanted to go over there and throw my arms up in the air and say “Forget anything?” If I had to live life over again, I probably would, just to see the look on her face. It’s a funny concept now, but it sure wasn’t then. That pain of being rejected stung down to the soul.

Whatever happened to Holly Lueck is anyone’s guess. Maybe she’s an obese cow with twelve illegitimate kids and no teeth, or maybe she turned out to be a sweetheart after all. I doubt if she’d remember me, and at this point I don’t remember anything about her but that she had blonde hair. Maybe that’s why I’ve had my life long affinity for brunettes.

Anyway, I made a special point today to send Valentines or at least text messages to all the single women I could think of, no matter who they were. Just the thought of receiving something from someone and how nice that can feel made me want to spread some cheer.

As for me, I was in a fantastic mood all day. Three hot shows at Zanies yesterday was as satisfying as it gets, and my comedy itch was scratched thoroughly. Nothing lifts my spirit higher than having good solid comedy shows, and that would include a card from Holly.

Today it was radio. All day. All night too. Jerry Agar was in Haiti this week through his church and didn’t get back until Friday night. We weren’t sure if or when Jerry’s Kidders would be on this week, but it ended up being today from 3pm to 3:50. We met up at 2:00 to go over our stories and prepare as we usually do, and I could feel we were all clicking.

We took that energy right into the studio and kept it going when the little red light came on. It’s always fun when we’re in that groove, and even when the show wandered, we still were able to get some laughs out of it. That’s what makes the concept so much fun. We’re up on the high wire without a net, and everyone knows it. It’s high risk, but high reward.

Not all the jokes hit, but WE were on target as a team. Ken Sevara, Tim Slagle and I are  completely different in almost every way, and it took us a while to gel on the air. Ken is a voice and character guy and Tim is very up on current events and issues. My style doesn’t include any of that, so I’m coming from yet another angle. I’m just a disruptive smart ass.

The thing that makes it so much fun is that we all enjoy hanging out together off the air as well as on. It’s like a tree house or a weekly poker game we get to carry on in front of microphones on one of the biggest radio stations in America. I think our sincerity shows. Every joke isn’t always stellar and nobody claims that, but as a team we can get on a roll.

We had that today, and the time went by faster than it usually does. It felt like about ten minutes, when actually it was almost an hour. Then we went out for pizza afterwards and continued the laughs there. We had a new producer this week named Margaret and she’d never worked with us before so we asked if she wanted to join us and she did. It was fun.

I needed to wrap it up a little early as I had to be in Kenosha, WI to do The Mothership Connection from 8 to 11pm on WLIP. Today was double duty, but I didn’t mind. It’s fun to be on the radio, and when The Mothership Connection clicks, that’s a total blast also.

Again, we all like each other as people first, radio partners second. We hang out off the air when we can, and everyone contributes to the show. There may be a group of chumps that can’t stand me, but they can kiss my pale fuzzy arse. My friends and I get along well.

Having one group like this would be great, but I’ve got two. And I’m part of two others with both The D-List on ESPN Radio 540 in Milwaukee and with Stone and Double T on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I don’t do those shows every week, and I don’t run them either, but when I’m on it’s the same feeling. They’re great people and we all click on air.

I didn’t make a nickel today, but I sure had a good time hanging out on the air with a lot of people I like and respect. I hope it leads to something in the future as far as money and contacts go, but for today there was nothing I could think of I’d rather do. That’s success!

Two Hots And A Not

January 31, 2010

Saturday January 30th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

Three shows today – two on stage, one on radio. The two on stage had a total combined audience of around 400. The radio show had several hundred thousand, if not more. Two out of the three shows came off without a hitch. Guess which one sucked rotten eggs?

I have to admit, I really stunk it up on Jerry’s Kidders today on WGN and I feel horrible about it. Jerry Agar is nice enough to have us on and I never want to embarrass either him or the station. I don’t take that opportunity lightly, and I want to contribute when I’m on.

I feel like I owe it to both Jerry and the other Kidders to step up and be the leader in the room as we’re on the air. I’ve done radio and comedy, and know the timing of both. It’s a total blast when it’s going well, and it usually does. Today I thought we were misfiring on all cylinders, and most of it started with me. For whatever reason, we never hit our stride.

Ken Sevara took the week off because he had a gig. Since we’ve been on WGN, each of us has had to bow out at some point, only because Saturdays are our work days. It’s tough for all three of us to make it in every week, but nobody’s angry about it. It’s just how it is.

Dale Irvin filled in for Ken, and he’s a total pro. He has his own individual bit he’s been doing for years called “The Friday Funnies” and it’s basically the same thing we do as the Kidders. He finds goofy news stories of the week and writes jokes. They’re funny jokes at that, and they’re on video. You can subscribe at http://www.daleirvin.com and I recommend it.

Tim Slagle is our other Kidder and he’s usually on point also. In fact, we tend to like to tease Ken because he’s not the strongest ad libber. That’s not a bad thing, he just isn’t. He likes to be prepared and he can do great impressions and voice characterizations that none of the rest of us can, so everyone has their place. Today, that place wasn’t a radio studio.

One would think with three of us who’ve been on the air before and Jerry, we’d be able to get in there and start throwing heat from all directions. Many times we do exactly that, but not today in my opinion. Nobody else said anything, but I felt like it was a train wreck the whole time, and most of it was my fault. The harder I tried to flow, the less it worked.

We fell back on a lot of self effacing humor and made fun of ourselves, but that doesn’t cut it for long. Eventually, someone needs to land on some punch lines. I’ll admit I like to work off the cuff, and this is the danger of what can happen when that doesn’t work out.

I don’t want to overanalyze it, but we weren’t anywhere near where we should be today. This is one of the advantages of radio though. If we did stink, it was diluted and we didn’t have to suffer the torture of having to eat it live on stage in front of a room full of people.

That’s the worst feeling I know. If an audience doesn’t like a show, everybody knows it. And I do mean everybody. Time slows down and it’s a bloody vortex of negative energy. On radio, people either don’t know or care, or if they do they can just change the station.

What probably happened was that nobody noticed. I did, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. It’s not my show. My name is nowhere on the product at all except for at the top of the show when Jerry introduces us. If I’m going to pick a place to blow it, this is it.

Still, I never want to put Jerry or the guys in a bad way. We’ve all worked way too hard and long to start slacking off now. If we’re going to be on the air, we should be able to be at least a little bit funny for those who take time to listen. I don’t think it happened today.

The good news is, what I think about this doesn’t matter one tiny little bit. Perception is always what matters, and the perception is we’re good enough to be asked to be on WGN radio. We’ve had enough good shows where the powers that be haven’t yanked us off yet.

This one was just a blip. Athletes get into slumps and I’m sure actors and musicians and any other kind of performing artist has to deal with an off day once in a while. This was a show that I didn’t like, but sometimes I can be way too hard on myself. Maybe I am now.

The two shows at Zanies tonight were a completely different story. I didn’t nod out this time and was ready to go from the beginning. There were two nicely packed houses and it felt good to have an opportunity to work a full week of well attended shows at a club. It’s how every week used to be back in the boom years, and I forgot how much fun that was.

The other acts on the show this week were both nice so that also made it fun. Zanies has a smart policy of hiring ‘house emcees’ which are experienced people to host their shows for a month at a time or maybe longer. I’ve house emceed in the past and loved it. It helps the club by making the shows stronger and helps the acts by giving us steady local work.

The house emcee this month is Vince Maranto, a funny guy I’ve known for probably 25 years now. We met when I first started coming to Chicago and have stayed friends all that time. Vince has the distinction of having had only two jobs in his entire life – McDonald’s and comedy. He started working at McDonald’s in high school and climbed up the ladder.

Eventually, he became a manager at the Woodfield Mall location when it was officially the busiest McDonald’s in the world. He started doing comedy and that became his career but he has some interesting stories of his McDonald’s years. Vince is always fun to work with. We make each other laugh off stage because we’ve got so much common reference.

The feature act is a 22 year old Indian kid named Prashanth Venkataramanujam. That’s more than a mouthful, and he just uses his first name on stage. He’s very bright and has a big future if he stays with it. He’s a good looking smart kid, and I hope he does very well. He asked me to grab some food after the show and pick my brain, which is totally smart.

Most kids his age wouldn’t have that foresight, but he totally does. I tried to help him as much as possible, as did Vince. He’s still green and putting his act together, but there’s an absolute spark there, and he was eager to learn from us all week. Working with a pup has a way of rubbing off on two old dogs like Vince and myself. It was a fun week all around.

Riddles

January 22, 2010

Thursday January 21st, 2010 – Alsip, IL

It never hurts to have a new place to work, especially in the Chicago area. Zanies is my home base for comedy club work, but they don’t have a club on the south side. There was a rinky dink room I used to work, but that wasn’t worth the drive. It never paid very well.

Chicago is a huge market and there are literally millions of people who might like to see a comedy show, but there are way too few clubs to serve them all. Zanies has been around forever but there’s a lot of territory that doesn’t have anything. The south side of Chicago has been wide open for a while now, and I’m glad to see someone has finally claimed it.

Riddles Comedy Club is where I’m working this week. They used to be open for a long time but the owner sold it and then it closed. They’ve reopened in a new location and the original owner is back in charge. The website is http://www.myriddlescomedyclub.com and the room is really gorgeous. It’s nice to be working for competent people who love comedy.

I only worked at their old location one time. I was driving to and fro from Milwaukee as I remember so I was probably working at 93QFM doing mornings. It was a long drive and at the time the shows ran from Tuesday through Saturday. That’s a lot of time on the road and I just never went back. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the room, I just had other options.

I’d heard the original owner Ken Stevens decided to reopen in a new location and he’s a good friend of Ken Sevara, one of Jerry’s Kidders. Ken Stevens asked Ken Sevara if there were any strong acts in the area he might be able to use that he may have overlooked and my name came up. I got a call from Ken Stevens and got a booking. That’s how it works.

I’m very grateful to get the work, and it taught me a lesson. I really do need to get better at keeping my name out there in front of potential bookers. I could have had tons of work through the years at the old club, but I just never went after it. Zanies has always been my home base in Chicago, but since there’s no south side location they’re fine with Riddles.

How many local weeks of work did I blow by not staying in touch over the years? I had as much road work as I wanted, so I guess I never thought about it. Ken is a very nice guy and I’m sure we would have gotten along great but it just didn’t work out that way. Now, with clubs closing and the economy the way it is, I’m going to be smart and stay in touch.

There are quite a few other places I’ve made the same mistake. I’ve either worked there in the past, or they know my name well enough for me to approach them and at least be in the mix of possible people to book in a fallout situation. I’ve been very lax at my duties of staying in touch with those who could possibly book me and it needs to stop immediately.

This is a wake up call. I need to start reconnecting with everyone and stay in touch on at least a semi regular basis. I hadn’t talked to Ken Stevens in about 20 years. That’s just not smart. Even if I didn’t work for him, I should have kept in touch. Who knows what I may have missed? This is yet another area of life in which I could stand a major improvement.

Fun And Foresight

January 18, 2010

Sunday January 17th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Back for a little hair of the dog that bit us. Last night was a major high and a chance for us to enjoy the sweet fruits of a lot of labor, and we did. After the show we went out for a fantastic meal at a place called Leona’s, which is a chain in the Chicago area. The food is outstanding, but we’d have had just as much fun at Wendy’s. This was about the people.

We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and buzzed about how much fun this whole project was. Everything fell together exactly how it was supposed to, and that’s not what I’ve been used to in life. Six months ago we had a concept. Now it’s an actual show.

It took major effort from the group, but it was the right effort. The combination of what we brought to the table as the Kidders was the comedy aspect. Jerry brought along a radio outlet and Vicki Quade helped us develop our concept into a play format. We couldn’t do any of this without all these ingredients, and we know it. For once, things fell into place.

Last night was the launch, and it was a good one. Nobody made a fortune and we didn’t set the theater world on it’s ear – but we did DO this. Last night was our night to enjoy the thrill of all this coming together, but that’s over now. As great as it was, we had to return to the Beverly Arts Center today for a matinee performance at 2pm. Time to do it again.

It seemed almost surreal to be right back there so soon after our big night. By the time I dropped Jerry off it was after 2am and he suggested I just sleep on his couch because we needed to get back so soon, so I did. It saved a lot of time and driving but we still had our hands full getting up and showered and headed right back south for another performance.

The audience was again very receptive and we were actually a lot looser as a group. We knew our cues from doing it last night, but this time we had some technical glitches. I had my microphone go out for two of my characters and that threw us all off stride. I covered for it and projected loudly, but it was still a hassle we didn’t expect. Welcome to theater.

This is a whole new experience and there is much to learn. Some of the costume change situations were a little awkward too. None of us are used to that as standup comics, so we struggled a bit with the timing of it all. The first show Ken Sevara had an issue with it and today I did. I had a sleeve turn inside out on a jacket and I’ll be damned if I could fix it.

It’s like a pit crew in a car race. A lot has to be done in a limited time and if one thing is out of place, it screws everything up. I could NOT get that sleeve to pop back in, and that caused me to rip my microphone wire out of the socket and off of the unit that was on my pants. I stuck the unit in my pocket and went on stage to do my bit. I had no time to spare.

Nobody in the audience cared, and actually it was a good learning experience for us all. I have to believe this is all part of live theater, and the bugs will get worked out the more times we do this. We all agreed that standup comedy is THE best performing experience of them all. All we do is show up and talk. Still, nobody regretted doing the play. It’s fun.
Too bad fun doesn’t pay any bills. If it did, I’d make Donald Trump look like a vagrant. I’ve done fun projects my whole life. Once in a while I’ll squeeze a couple of stray bucks loose, but I’ve never come close to hitting the mother lode. I do want to experience that.

I read recently where my funk hero George Clinton’s mother passed away and he didn’t have enough money to pay for her funeral. That was a real wakeup call. George is now 68 years old and should be living the life of the superstar he is, but he’s still out touring so he can pay bills just to survive. That’s not right, and I sure as hell don’t want that to be me.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but smart financial planning has got to be a part of the mix at some point. I’m to that point, and if I don’t watch myself I’ll be in the same boat as George Clinton and so many others who either got ripped off or just didn’t plan.

From what I read, George was allegedly ripped off by people who were supposed to put his financial affairs in order after a bankruptcy in 1984. That was after his first big heyday but he would come back and have another big run when rap music sampled his big songs.

By all accounts he should be extremely rich, but apparently he isn’t. He truly is a legend in his field, and that’s even scarier. I’m far from legendary in my field and never had even close to the impact George did. If he’s broke and used up, what’s in store for me? I better learn to get my finances straight so when money ever does start rolling, I’ll be prepared.

As fun as doing this play was, I have no idea how long I’ll be involved in it. Fun is fun, but to really do this right it will take paying dues and a total commitment from all of us to keep going in the same direction. It’s like a band, and that’s what scares me. Bands break up all the time and a group of people have a lot more chance to clash than an individual.

I’ll be the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’ve brought this up to the group. I’ll be a dented can my whole life, and in addition to that I’m a creative control freak. I like to do things the way I like to do them, and I think I’ve earned that right. Getting voted down in a group situation will only last so long with me, and I know it. I am creatively selfish.

I think that’s necessary to be good, and I’ve told this to the other guys. Jerry is fine with it, but I’m not so sure about the other guys. They say they are, but when money flows who knows what bumps in the road will turn into mountains? I don’t want any clashes to come out of nowhere but it’s almost inevitable in a group situation. I want to prepare for it now.

In reality, we’re all too old to put a lot of time and effort into this for years to make it an industry like a Rob Becker did with his play “Defending The Caveman”. He is a marketer like I’ve never seen, and I respect the hell out of what he did with that show. Vicki Quade is brilliant in her own right and has marketed her shows very well also. We need that too.

Now is when the real work starts. We had our fun for a weekend, but now it’s time for a review of everything and see where we all stand. Will we take it farther? Who knows, but even if we don’t just to get it this far was an electrifying experience. I’m delighted I did it.