Posts Tagged ‘Larry Wilde’

Quality Content

June 4, 2013

Sunday June 2nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   It never hurts to pound positive principles into one’s head, even if they have been heard before. I want to do all I can to turn the tables and get myself out of this current funk, so I buried myself in quality content all day long. There’s nothing like learning from the best in a particular field.

   First, I listened to a recording of Woody Allen talking about comedy and comedy writing. It’s part of the extensive research done by author Larry Wilde for his classic book ‘Great Comedians Talk About Comedy’.  He recorded interviews with great comedians of the past and it’s been one of my favorite books for years. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in standup comedy.

   There’s a website called www.laugh.com that sells the interviews Larry did with comedy icons like George Carlin, Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld and many others including Woody Allen. This was the precursor to the overdose of podcasts we have today. Marc Maron has the one everybody seems to be familiar with, and he gets the best guests of this generation like Larry did years ago.

   I can’t think of anyone bigger in the comedy world than Woody Allen. He is THE most prolific comedy artist of the 20th Century if not all time. His work ethic is unmatched by anyone and he’s still doing it today. Whether anyone happens to be a fan of what he does or not, he cranks it out.

   I happen to be a huge fan of Woody’s, and the sheer amount of product alone he’s generated is awe inspiring. I churned out my two little CDs and a DVD, but those seem like Chihuahua turds compared to Woody’s body of work. He’s written four books of essays, has three comedy album projects that are now condensed onto a two CD set and has done a feature film a year since 1969.

   In a word – WOW! What other artist has come close to that kind of output? Steve Martin has a lot of films to his credit in addition to albums and books, but he’s not in the same solar system as Woody. Nobody is. Like him or not, he’s the standard setter for generations to come. His number of completed projects dwarfs everyone, and even though all of them weren’t big hits many were.

   I listened intently to Woody’s interview, and even though I’ve heard it at least a dozen times or more there is always something that jumps out at me that I hadn’t heard or need to hear again. He is truly the master’s master of the craft of comedy, and I enjoyed listening to him all over again.

   After that, I popped in a five cassette program from an author and mail order guru I’ve listened to for years named E. Joseph Cossman. He made millions marketing products that were given up on by others, and had a number of big hits including the potato gun, ant farm and several others.

   I’ve got a few tape programs from him, and they’re all great even though some of the info may be a bit dated. He died years ago, before the internet. Still, his acumen is rock solid now as it was when it came out and I wanted to refresh my memory and hear it again. It inspired me all over.

   Maybe now I’ll actually DO something rather than bitch about being in a slump. His principles of business are very solid, and he was a world class entrepreneur. What better way to learn about anything than to go to the top of any field and study the masters? E. Joseph Cossman is a master.

   Woody Allen is a master also. So is Larry Wilde. Gene Perret is another. I would love to get on a list like that, but I have a ways to go. Right now I’m hoping to be able pay my rent next month. I doubt if Woody Allen is worried about that. He’s thinking about his work – just as he should be.

Woody Allen - Comedy Master

Woody Allen – Comedy Master

E. Joseph Cossman - Mail Order Master

E. Joseph Cossman – Mail Order Master

A must read for any student of comedy.

A must read for any student of comedy – by Larry Wilde.

Halfway Home

July 1, 2010

Wednesday June 30th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

2010 is half way gone. Wow. I feel like life is passing me by, and I’m not able to take it all in. I’m on the big clock and it’s ticking faster and faster. I can chose to march with the rest of the ants, or veer off and take my own path. Either way will end in eventual death.

That being the case, why not veer off and go my own way? I’ve never fit in with the rest of the ants anyway, so why would I start now? Maybe I’ll find a new group of ants I could fit in with better, or maybe be the only ant in a group of something else. Either way, it’s a total race against time no matter what I do, so I need to pick something and give it a shot.

I could beat myself up about what I didn’t get done, but what would that prove? On the positive side, I did get a new CD out and it’s getting very good reviews from all kinds of sources. Larry Wilde, a guy who spent his life studying comedy wrote a flattering email.

He called Hard Luck Jollies “the best self depreciating humor since Jack Benny.” Larry wrote the book “The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy” and interviewed most of the very top names in comedy in the 20th century. A compliment like that coming from him is as high as it gets, especially since I didn’t ask for it. I had no idea he’d even listened to it.

That’s a big plus for the first half of this year. I’m sure I’ll get a lot more mileage out of it for the foreseeable future, and it’s DONE. It frees me up to do other projects, and that’s my focus for the next three months. I intend to work feverishly for the next 90 days to get myself prepared for the big debut of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ in Harford, WI on October 1st.

I want to be really ready for that night on many levels. I want the show to be razor sharp and funny, but I want to be in an exercise and good health groove too. Three months is an eternity, and if I can exercise and eat better I bet I’ll feel like a million bucks by October.

I’d also like to have as many products as I can finish ready to go by then. If I do it right, I’ll have a nice little publicity buzz and get some attention from people who haven’t seen or heard of me before. I need to have something to sell, because I know they’ll enjoy what I’m doing on stage. I’ve already seen it, but wasn’t ready. This is a 90 day total makeover.

I think deadlines are good, and I’m putting one on myself effective  immediately. I have a 90 day window to get myself as ready as I can for a gigantic night of fun at the Schauer Center in Hartford, WI on Friday October 1st. I’m vividly visualizing it in my mind‘s eye.

I’m going to give that audience my best show ever. They’re going to love it. I’ll be in a positive groove and all the years of sacrifice will come together to make that night one to remember forever. I’ll be on top of my game, and everything will come off as expected.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about any one show this far out, but I know I can do this and I won’t be happy unless I give my absolute best effort. I want to EARN it all the way. Let’s see how closely to my vision I can pull this off. I have a goal and I’m on a mission.

Wilde About Larry

January 27, 2010

Wednesday January 27th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

Most people, including many comedians, don’t realize how much devotion it requires to keep improving the onstage part of our business. There’s so much to do off stage it’s hard to keep growing as a performer, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to keep doing it.

The ‘act’ is the product we sell. Part of that includes jokes, but it’s also a mixture of all kinds of other intangibles from confidence to experience to presentation. It’s a developed persona wrapped up in a total package, and if it’s done correctly it should always evolve.

George Carlin is a perfect example. He had a 40 year career but was constantly evolving to the point of where it even changed his physical appearance. He started out with the suit and tie look and short hair, and evolved into the counterculture hippie wearing jeans and a t-shirt with long hair and a beard. His comedy evolved along with him. He kept growing.

I’m very much at that point myself, and I relish the challenge. I have more material than most comedians already, only because I made a point to keep working on it over the years while everything else in my life exploded around me. Focusing on comedy kept the bullet out of my mouth in some ways, but it also gave me something to do that I really enjoyed.

Comedy is FUN to me. It always has been. I can’t stand dealing with the club owners or the bookers or the brutal travel schedule or the sleazy motels, but the time onstage is what I live for. It makes up for all the other stuff, and if I’m going to sacrifice a ’normal’ life to get it I’m going to go about it correctly. Comedy is a craft, and it needs to be developed.

There are many aspects to that craft, onstage and off. Both are difficult. I’ve spent years which grew into decades learning the ropes onstage, and it didn’t come easy. Many nights I’d wonder if I made the right choice as I stood on the stage of some honky-tonk hell hole hundreds of miles from home hoping to hypnotize a handful of hooched up hillbillies.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I did learn from it and now I’ve attained a level of expertise as a performer very few ever achieve. Why? Because I stayed with it a lot longer than most others would. Part of that is because of my love of the craft, the other is probably part stupidity. By all accounts I probably should have given this up years ago.

That being said, this is exactly why I need to keep growing. It would be easy to phone in my shows and focus on other things like I’ve seen a lot of other comics do. Unfortunately, some of those things they focused on were bitterness, booze or something else on the ugly list and it ended up destroying the act it took so many years of hard work to put in place.

I don’t think it has to be that way, and I’m going to do something about it. I never drank or did drugs, so that’s a huge minefield I avoided right there. Bitterness on the other hand has been a problem. It’s hard not to be bitter about things that are unfair in life, but who’s going to change that? The only thing any of us can do is become the best US, and let what happens after that happen. That’s where I’m sitting right now. I still can improve greatly.

A major part of that will be reworking my entire onstage act from top to bottom. Every single aspect of everything I do is up for review. It’s like totally remodeling a house that’s been lived in for 25 years. Over that time things wear out or break down and there’s a list of things to fix or improve to bring it back up to speed again. Plus, it’s good to refresh.

My act can use a total rework, and that’s not going to be easy. It’s a matter of busting up a lot of things that have been there for years, but also keeping some of the pillars in place to start rebuilding with a strong foundation. There has to be a well planned blueprint first.

My first 25 years in comedy were very unorganized. I didn’t have much of a battle plan at all other than to just get better on stage and stick it in the ass of everyone who bothered me. That was pretty stupid, especially the last part. Now, I’m not worried about what any other people think. I know where I want to go, and I hope I’m not too late to get there.

The first smart thing I’ve done is knowing what I want to do. I’ve never had that before. The second one will be doing my homework before I start. I’m going to go back in history and study guys before me and see what they did, both right and wrong. I’ve always been a student of the game, but now it’s time to dig even deeper and see what I can find to use.

Larry Wilde is a guy who published over fifty books about comedy from joke books to a classic called “Great Comedians Talk About Comedy”, which interviews a bunch of the biggest names of the 20th century from Bob Hope to Woody Allen to Johnny Carson and a lot more. Larry asks pointed questions and gets some amazing insights from the masters.

There are recordings of his interviews sold on a website called http://www.laugh.com. I have all of them and enjoyed every one. It’s fascinating for me to hear what the guys before me have to say about the craft, and it’s amazing to hear how much of it is timeless, even now.

Larry has his own website at http://www.larrywilde.com and years ago we came into contact, even though I don’t remember exactly how. He’s always been very friendly and I do hear from him on occasion asking me about something comedy related. He’s what I consider a super student of the game, and that’s what I aspire to as well. He’s on top of his business.

He’s also a great entrepreneur, something I really need to learn. I contacted Larry about buying some of the recordings he made with more obscure but equally brilliantly talented comedians like Dick Gregory, Ed Wynn, George Jessel and Joey Bishop. I told him I was interested in buying out all he had and they came in the mail today. I can’t wait to listen.

The complete list besides the people I mentioned are Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas, Maurice Chevalier, Jack Benny, George Burns and Jerry Seinfeld. Those are some heavy hitters and I’m sure I’ll learn from every one.

This is the kind of stuff most performers won’t do. One, it was an investment of money. Larry cut me a deal, but it still will cost a chunk of change not to mention the time it takes to listen, make notes and implement what I learned. But, it’s worth it. I‘ll really improve.