Posts Tagged ‘Kings of Comedy’

Group Dynamics

April 9, 2010

Thursday April 8th, 2010 – Winfield, IL

Every imbecile and their aunt’s grandma is trying to slap together a group of comedians these days, thinking it will be an automatic sell. It seems to be a Sam’s Club mentality of if something is sold in bulk for a special price, it’ll fly out the door. Not necessarily true.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the group theory, even though I’ve participated in several. The first one I can think of that got noticed was “The Kings of Comedy” which consisted of Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer and Steve Harvey. They made a big splash with a tour and a film and good for them for doing it. It was a successful concept.

Then, Jeff Foxworthy used the concept to do “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour” with Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy. Again, good for Jeff. He knew he’d have a completely different audience, and he was very successful. Then, as everything that works has to endure, the avalanche of imitators trying to scarf up the scraps started popping up.

I’ve seen all kinds of ‘tours’ pop up from “Four Funny Dads” to “Pretty Funny Women” to a cow barn of others that don’t really fit together. ‘Three Funny Norwegians With The Hiccups’ isn’t necessarily a drawing card, even though people are trying to use any bit of a gimmick they can. I’m not at all opposed to gimmicks, they just have to be marketed.

Joey O’Shey has created a group concept called “The Wise Guys Of Comedy” and I like it for many reasons. One, he understands MARKETING. That’s really what all this boils down to anyway. It’s now like a band, and bands present a whole new set of rules that we as individual comedians never had to deal with before. It now becomes a group dynamic.

With group dynamics come politics and hierarchy issues, and that’s why bands break up so often. It’s not easy working together under any circumstances, especially in a situation where democratic rule is supposed to take place. It’s just not realistic to expect everybody to agree on everything, and when they don’t there needs to be a final say as to what goes.

Jerry’s Kidders has stayed together because Jerry Agar is the final say. If we’re stuck on an issue, our rule is ‘Jerry plus one vote’ to make the decision. Jerry isn’t a dictator but he does have the ultimate final say, and we all agreed to that going in. I think that’s needed.

It’s exactly what didn’t happen with The Chicago Style Standups. That was a group that never did get the leadership situation straightened out and it’s barely limping along today. Jim McHugh got out to start his “Chicago Comedy All Stars”, and he’s the leader there. It works great because we all know it, and Jim’s a good leader. I work for him quite often.

Joey put this idea together but didn’t just sit there and wait for business to come to him. He went out and had posters made up and started selling the concept of three comedians a lot like The Rat Pack that could interact with both the crowd and each other, and sold it to places that don’t normally have comedy. That’s very smart, and I’m in. We had our debut tonight at a place called Caliendo’s in Winfield, IL and everyone who came out loved it.

Is this going to be the next big thing in comedy entertainment and take the whole world by storm? I don’t think anyone could predict that, even if it was. I don’t think it will be at all, but that’s ok. Just because we’re not selling out arenas doesn’t mean we’re a failure.

It’s a lot more than that. Besides marketing, it also boils down to who’s in the show and how are they used? Joey has been doing comedy for over twenty years and chose not only me but Bill Gorgo to be a part of this. Bill and I are not only experienced, we get along on many levels. Plus, neither one of us want to be in charge of this. This is all Joey’s baby.

We all agree Joey should be paid for doing that, and so far everything has fallen exactly into place with no glitches. This is almost like three musicians forming a little combo that plays out on weekends once in a while. We all have other projects, but this is a fun aside.

Actually, Joey is working to make this THE project, and I could see it happening as he‘s very good at marketing where Bill and I really aren‘t. I’ve got my own projects to tend to, and that takes enough of my time. Bill is a high school teacher so for him it’s extra money and a chance to hang with comics. The chemistry of the three of us fits together perfectly.

That’s why I see this working, but as a sleeper project. Joey has hand picked venues that have not done comedy before, but have facilities to do shows. Some might work great and others might flop horribly, but all of us have enough experience to know how to handle it.

We’ve all been around the block so nothing rattles us, and we’re going where everyone else isn’t. I’m sure word will get out eventually and other ‘groups’ might try to horn in on this, but that’s just part of business in general. Joey is on the ball and has been working to get the word out, so he’s got a head start on the latecomers. He out hustled a lot of people.

This is how the times have dictated how comedy evolves. I hear stories of how guys out east are doing shows in smaller towns for volunteer fire department fundraisers. That may sound hick and low end, but I also hear how much money comes through these venues for the comedians. It’s WAY worth their while, and bypasses the scum bag bookers as well.

The show tonight wasn’t a killer but it wasn’t a flop either. It was a first run for a show in a place that doesn’t normally have shows. The owners loved us and want us back to do another one in the summer. With some very minor adjustments, it could be a solid money maker for everyone involved. I was willing to do a trial run on a Thursday to experiment.

I still do shows with Jim McHugh and his Chicago Comedy All Stars and in fact I have two gigs booked next week in Michigan. I also am part of Jerry’s Kidders and would do a show with those guys in a second. It never hurts to have a chance to get work anywhere.

No matter what group calls or where any of this leads, I’m still in charge of my destiny. Ultimately, I want people to come out and see me. If I’m with a group it’s fun and usually financially beneficial, but in the long run I want to have fans that enjoy what I do and are there to see me specifically. Is that being a control freak? Maybe. But that’s what I want.