Posts Tagged ‘Larry The Cable Guy’

Random Reflections

February 18, 2014

Monday February 17th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

For as long as I’ll be around, February 17th will have personal significance. It’s not because of the fact it’s both Michael Jordan and Larry The Cable Guy’s birthdays, but that’s also in the mix. They were both born the same year as me, and they’ve achieved levels of success few ever reach.

Nobody doubts Michael Jordan’s esteemed position, but “Larry” is a topic of debate. For one, that’s not the name I know him as but I have nothing but respect for what he has done. He’s the same age as me, and worked many of the same gigs I did on his long way up the comedy ladder.

He found what the public likes, and cashed in. Good for him! I don’t begrudge him in the least. He earned it, and by all accounts is a very nice guy. I haven’t seen him in quite a while and we were never close buddies, but we did cross paths a few times and always got along splendidly.

I’m long past caring in the least what any entertainer does in their act. Michael Jordan played sports, and that’s an unforgiving force. The nicest person in the world will get cut if they aren’t able to meet the physical requirements. That’s all it is. There is no gray area whatsoever there.

Entertainment is a whole other scenario. It’s completely subjective, and what is great to one is garbage to another. Is “Larry” funny? Millions of paying customers think so, and that’s the only thing that matters. Comedians like to say “I’m WAY funnier than THAT” while driving to their gig in a town nobody ever heard of that pays $200 flat while ‘hacks’ sell out arenas nationwide.

I admit, I used to be one of those elitist comedy snobs that thought I knew what funny is. Who gives me or anyone else that right to think we have authority and/or control on what’s funny or not funny? It doesn’t matter in the least. All that matters is who can sell tickets. That’s the key.

Does Dane Cook make me laugh? He hasn’t yet, and I doubt if he will in the future. Most of my comedian friends share the same opinion, yet he’s performing for more people in one night than most of us do in six months. Who’s ‘funny’ now? I’m changing my ways in my old age.

Do I think Larry The Cable Guy is funny? I really don’t care. I’m not his target audience, so what’s the difference? If we cross paths again – and I hope we do, I like the guy – we won’t be talking about either of our acts anyway. We’ll share pleasantries, and that’s all that I care about.

I’ve got enough to worry about doing what I think is funny, and finding enough people that are in agreement and will pay to come see me perform. I have a pretty good grasp on who my crowd is, but I need to get in front of a lot more of them in a hurry so I can sock away some cash soon.

Michael Jordan and Larry The Cable Guy are just a month older than me on a calendar, but as far as finances go they’re eons ahead. They could live like kings for six lifetimes, but I still have to worry about paying my bills every month. I thought I’d have that figured out by now, but no.

Every time I see Michael Jordan have another birthday, part of me feels like I never came close to where I could have. He’s got a gorgeous new wife and twin babies, and I’m trolling back into my past hoping women I had a crush on years ago might toss me a mercy date. I’m embarrassed.

But that’s not why this date has personal significance. Today was my grandmother’s birth date in 1911, and coincidentally the date her son (and my father) died. I don’t know if that carries any meaning in the cosmos, but it always causes me to reflect on this date whether I want to or not.

I almost let the day get by without thinking of it, but then I signed online and the first picture I saw was a photo I’d never seen before of my father and step mother when they were very young. My brother Bruce posted it, and it caused me to do a double take when I saw it. That’s not how I remember either one of them, and it cast a whole new light on things. Everybody’s life changes.

Bruce and I have only recently become Facebook friends, and I’m thrilled we are. I commented on the picture and how I had never seen it before, and it started us on a positive exchange about a lot of things that gives me confidence that our reunion in March will be nothing but spectacular.

I’m seeing a side of him as an adult that I never saw as a kid, and it’s amazing. He’s extremely intelligent and very sharp witted and funny. My other brother Larry and sister Tammy are funny in their own way too, so if nothing else I think we’ll have some big laughs – and also some tears.

I couldn’t help but stare at that picture for a bit. I don’t have any pictures of my father. Not just none with me – none period. He was such an evil ogre in my memory that I wanted to block him out of my life force from an early age. We never posed for any pictures together, and that’s sad.

The image of my step mother Ann was anything but what was in the picture. She was younger than I’d ever known her, and I have to say quite attractive actually. She was the polar opposite of that in my childhood, and I remember praying for her slow and painful death. The saddest part of that is that I got it. She died at only 59 from the horrific complications of diabetes of all things.

It was only when I heard she died that I was able to forgive her. She was Bruce’s mother and it was very apparent that we were the step children. It was torture to live through as a kid, but now I can see why it was. Blood IS thicker than water, and she didn’t have to be nice to us. My father made her life pure hell, and it was all a big gaping wound that is just now starting to heal over.

My grandmother was no June Cleaver mother figure either. She came with her own bag of ugly and that was passed down to my father, who passed it on to Ann and us. Grandma was a cold one for sure, and Bruce hated her just as much as I couldn’t stand Ann. But now they are ALL dead.

And soon enough, Bruce and Tammy and Larry and I will join them. We have limited time and opportunities to patch things up, and live the rest of our days in peace. I have wanted this to take place since childhood, and I can feel it will be good for all of us. Our exchange today was a treat.

People can and do change, or at least let their guards down. I built a terrific relationship with Grandma before she died, and that’s how I’ll remember her. Ann and Russ (I just can’t come to call him ‘Dad’) were a different story. They and I never hit it off, and that’s a painful memory.

Bruce idolizes Ann, and I’m glad. I will never say anything bad about her again, and I’m very sorry and ashamed for what I’ve said in the past. But that was a lifetime ago, and I can see how much we’ve all grown. Bruce and Tammy and Larry and I have a real chance at a happy ending!

Michael Jordan and I were born less than a month apart in the same year. That's about all we have in common unfortunately.

Michael Jordan and I were born less than a month apart in the same year. That’s about all we have in common unfortunately.

Larry The Cable Guy has the same birthday as Michael, but we have crossed paths a few times. Nice guy, and I respect what he has accomplished. Like Michael, he's had a great ride.

Larry The Cable Guy has the same birthday as Michael, and we’ve have crossed paths a few times. Nice guy, and I respect what he has accomplished. Like Michael, he’s had a great run of success.

Today is also the anniversary of my father's death. This is a picture I hadn't seen before today, and it's nothing like how I remember him. I want to be nothing like he was - or at least that awful memory.

Today is also the anniversary of my father’s death. This is a picture I hadn’t seen before today, and it’s nothing like how I remember him. I aspire to be nothing like he ever was – or at least that awful memory.

It's also the birth date of my grandmother in 1911. Here's a dorky picture of me, and her in some sort of Loyal Order of Water Buffalo attire. Not sure where she got that, but PITA wasn't happy.

It’s also the birth date of my grandmother in 1911. Here’s a dorky picture of me, and her in some sort of ‘Loyal Order of Water Buffalo’ attire. I’m not sure where she got that getup, but I’m sure PETA wasn’t happy.

Business School

September 15, 2013

Saturday September 14th, 2013 – Burlington, WI

I’ve been putting more time and energy in on improving my business skills all of this year than I have in the past ten years. I haven’t seen much as far as tangible results, but that’s only a matter of time. I’m finally doing a lot of things correctly I should have been doing years ago, but didn’t.

I still have an extremely long way to go, but at least I’m making the sincere effort to get better at something that has never interested me. It would be like a classic car collector that loves doing body work but neglects what’s under the hood. Without a functional drive train, it’s of little use.

It might look good sitting in a museum, but that doesn’t do much good. If it doesn’t run, who’s ever going to want to buy it? Some sap might take a chance, but it wouldn’t be at top dollar. I am in a similar situation with my career. If I don’t get significantly better at my business, my show is absolutely meaningless. It will have been the world’s longest and most unproductive hobby ever.

Eventually I’m going to have to hire someone to help handle my business. I’ve never wanted to do that in the past, but now I’m looking at it differently. I wasn’t sure I had a product to sell, so it made me gun shy to approach anyone in the big time. I really think there was a subconscious fear of not being good enough, and I successfully steered myself away from anything big for decades.

Now I totally feel I’m ready, and in fact I think I waited too long. Circumstances have gotten in the way, but that happens to everyone. I stayed the course and paid my dues – and the dues of six or seven other people also. I didn’t take any shortcuts, and I can hang on stage with most anyone.

Acts like Louis CK, Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan and several others in that category are my peer group. Larry The Cable Guy worked the same hell holes I did (and still do). Nothing against any of them, but they somehow made the jump to reaching a wider audience. They’re not any funnier because they’re selling out big venues, but they’re sure being perceived that way by the public.

Unfortunately, I haven’t put out an energy that would make anyone perceive that about me. I’m seen as a club act by most bookers – even ones that I happen to like. It’s not their job to promote me to larger venues, and I can’t wait for it to happen by itself. I need to believe it in my head first (and mean it), and then project it outward until it becomes a reality. I finally believe I can do this.

My act is rock solid, and has been for years. Not everybody loves what I do, but that rings true for all acts – even the most popular ones. I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt all kinds of regular people all over the English speaking world would love what I do if they ever get to see it.

It’s up to me to make it happen. I’m a race car driver and I need a pit crew. Tonight I hung out with my magician friend Dennis DeBondt. Dennis is as highly skilled at handling his business as I’ve ever seen. He does comedy magic, but it’s mostly comedy. He’s a funny guy first even if he is billed as a magician. He sells himself extremely well, and is always working at getting booked.

Entertainers like Dennis and my speaker friend Todd Hunt have a harder road in that there isn’t a ‘circuit’ or even regular places for them to work like I can in comedy clubs. They charge more, but I see why. They really earn it. I learned a lot from Dennis tonight, and I intend to continue.

He comes from an entirely different breed of entertainers than comedians who work in comedy clubs exclusively. That’s a boil on the ass of show business, and has been since the comedy club boom hit in the early ‘80s. The real money has always been in snagging the corporate bookings.

The actual circumstances for those can often be horrendous, but the pay is good enough where the temporary inconvenience becomes worth it. As an ‘artiste’, doing those never appealed to me on any level. I was always in it for the love of the craft, and would rather take a low paying show in front of a quality audience than a high paying one that isn’t. I’m starting to change my ideals.

In the old proverbial perfect world – which it never is or has ever been – I’d work great gigs in big venues for audiences who are there to see me. Is that always a pleasant experience? Ask guys like Steve Martin or Dice Clay. They both had amazing runs, but neither paints a perfect picture.

There are hassles with everything, but I’d much rather deal with the hassle of working the three thousand seat theatre in a town than trying to stand on a beer case in some snake pit biker dive in the worst part of the same town that’s not all that great in the first place. I’d like to have choices.

Dennis booked a show tonight at a summer camp near Burlington, WI. It was for dads and their daughters between age 5 and up to maybe 12. There were probably 75 girls and 60 dads sitting in rustic surroundings that had a microphone but no stage lights. They left all the house lights on for the show, but it wasn’t a problem. Dennis is a pro, and handled it fine. I could have done it also.

What I couldn’t have done was pull off a 50 minute magic show that kept the attention of both the dads and the daughters. Dennis is masterful at grabbing attention and holding it, and he did a spectacular job. I found myself laughing out loud several times, and that’s unheard of for comics because we’ve seen and heard everything countless times. Funny is funny though and Dennis is.

In the car on the way up and back, I got a crash course in phone negotiation skills – something that’s as appealing to me as getting a do it yourself Ronco Home Colonoscopy kit for Christmas. I absolutely abhor being on the phone with a potential client, but that’s probably due to the fact I haven’t made the effort to master the skill. I’m not saying I’ll ever love it, but I do need to try it.

Dennis is in a bit of a different boat as to what he needs to sell, but not all that much. He does a significant amount of kids birthday parties, and that’s something a comedian doesn’t get asked to do. Standup comedy isn’t aimed at kids, and not just because it’s dirty. It takes maturity to get it.

Negotiation tactics are the same in most any genre, and that’s what I learned about. Dennis has perfected his pitch system over decades, and I appreciate him sharing some tips. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be an expert negotiator any time soon, but it’s a very positive start. I need to learn.

The fee Dennis got tonight was very impressive. It was well above what I usually get to close a typical one nighter comedy show, but he earned every penny. His experience showed, but I have a similar amount in the standup comedy world. I’ve done much harder gigs than this for far less.

I’ve got work coming up in October and beyond, but as of now zilch for the rest of September. That rots. It’s my own fault, but I’m doing something about it and that’s all I can do. I’ll be ok.

Astronomical Odds

January 24, 2013

Tuesday January 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   This just in from our news desk– LIFE IS DIFFICULT! Oh, and in a related story – it’s not fair either. I didn’t happen to just stumble across these particular revelations today, but it’s becoming a lot clearer as I get older that anyone’s chances of hitting anything really big are extremely tiny.

I happen to know a lot of people who happen to be in the creative arts in one way or another. It doesn’t matter if it’s standup comedy, acting, radio, music, writing, professional wrestling or any other artistic pursuit – there are zero guarantees the best people in any of them will ever hit it big.

The term ‘hit it big’ can be defined differently depending on who is asked to define it, but I am referring to the biggest of the big – the ‘A’ listers. I’ve crossed paths with literally THOUSANDS of aspiring artists of all genres in my time, and only a handful have ever made it to that top level.

I’ve been doing standup comedy the longest, and the three names – wait, four that pop into my head of those who really hit it are Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Larry The Cable Guy and Frank Caliendo. I would say all those guys have household name recognition with the American public.

I have no personal issues with any of those four, and I’m not jealous of their enormous success. BUT…I would like to be able to figure out exactly why it was only them. No offense to anybody on the list, but other than Frank being able to impersonate the current celebrities of his day I have no idea why the other three have been able to climb so high while so many others are struggling.

Again, I like Jeff, Drew and ‘Larry’ (not the name I knew him as when I met him, but that’s his secret and I’ll respect it) very much as people, and I’m happy they hit pay dirt. But can’t there be at least a little pay dust left over for the thousands of others who have rolled their own life dice?

SO many examples come to mind of people in all genres who have slugged it out for years, and only had minimal success. My friend Mike Moran comes to mind. He wrestled professionally for years, and came up the ranks with numerous marquee names of that field like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Mankind. He had fun and made a living, but that’s about it. He’s not rich or famous.

That’s no insult to Mike either. He’s a great guy, and very good at what he does. He paid a big price to attain his skill level, and he’s one of the best in the world. But that doesn’t pay any of his bills, and he is just another name on a list. Stone Cold Steve Austin isn’t any better of a wrestler.

I had dinner tonight with my speaker friend Todd Hunt. Todd works harder than anyone I have ever met when it comes to marketing himself, and he makes a living speaking at corporate events all over North America. Todd and I knew another speaker named John Powers who passed away this week. John was a wonderful guy and very talented, and he was successful but not Zig Ziglar.

Being at the top of any field is just plain rare – and talent alone does not dictate who gets there and who doesn’t. A lot of it is luck, with a lot of other things mixed in too. The sooner one learns to accept that the less insane he or she will become trying to chase something that just isn’t to be.

Marketing Mistakes

April 20, 2010

Sunday April 18th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

I’m still riding high from the shows this weekend, especially last night in Michigan. I’m very thankful for Jim McHugh including me on these shows, but I’m also angry at myself for being such a poor marketer for so long. I don’t know why that bothers me so much all of a sudden, but it totally does. I’ve screwed myself out of thousands of legitimate dollars.

There’s nothing illegal about selling merchandise after shows, and I have never tried to hide a penny of it from the IRS or anything like that. I report everything, and that way I’m able to sleep at night with a clear conscience. What’s keeping me awake is that I’ve been such a slacker in getting products made for sale. I can do a lot better and I intend to do it.

A CD or t-shirt is not necessarily the best product, but people expect it at the very least. What can I do to make either one of those stand out from everyone else’s? First off, I can package the CD to look like I have a record deal. My last one stood out and this new one does too, even though it’s not as colorful as the first. It looks like a professional product.

Having several available is also a good plan. One CD is hard enough to produce but two or three push it over the top. I’ll have at least two by this fall, and that will be a huge plus in establishing credibility. I also want to get some in stores and on websites that sell other comedy products. CDs are dying out, but something will replace them and I‘ll be ready.

A book of some sort would be great too. I remember Jeff Foxworthy’s first book about rednecks, and it was jokes with cartoons illustrating some of them. That’s simple enough to do, and I’ve got a nice “You Know You’ve Got Bad Luck When…” book ready to go.

This is the way I need to start thinking, and should have been doing it twenty years ago. I guess I thought about it a lot, I just never executed most of those thoughts. Now, it’s the perfect time to do it as everyone else seems to be scattering in every direction. I’m ready to do what I should have already been doing, and that’s making the most of what I’ve got.

‘Mr. Lucky’ is a hell of a comedy persona. Lots of people think they have bad luck and can totally relate to it. If I can capture the ‘something-est’ title of being THE one with the worst luck, I can start marketing that a lot better than I have been. It might not just be in a standup comedy arena either. There might be a comic strip in there to make it even better.

Whatever the case, I’m responsible for creating something to sell. I put together my act and have been selling that all over North America for over 25 years. That’s ok, but I made the mistake of thinking that was the only way to do it. I missed out on adding t-shirts, CD and DVDs, books and who knows what else I could have thought of to the mix. I blew it.

Most other comedians I know lost out as well. VERY few have the foresight and vision to create products beyond the actual act itself, but those that did have done very well on a financial basis. Jeff Foxworthy is one of them and I respect him totally, as I do others like James Gregory and even Larry The Cable Guy. They put the business into show business.