Posts Tagged ‘laughter’

The Funniest Human

July 9, 2014

Monday July 7th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

A shocking revelation for those that aren’t in the business is that many professional comedians are not funny people in the least off stage. It is mistakenly assumed that since we make our living on stage getting audiences to laugh, it carries over into our personal lives and we’re always ‘on’.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, but that’s what far too many think. Dennis Miller referred to standup comedy as a “chimp trick”, and I see his point. I’ve always referred to it as a craft, and a craft can only be acquired through painstaking years of learning skills and putting them to use.

There are countless comedians that have a natural flair for being funny going in, but it still has to be polished and refined to a professional standard. Quite often that painful process tends to be what drives a lot of the funny out of those people, but if someone truly ‘has it’, it’s there for life.

There are also countless others that ‘have it’ – but never even once stand on a stage. My cousin Brett is one of those people. I would rank him up there with any of the top comedians I have ever met or seen, and had he wanted to he could have easily made his living doing what I have done.

Instead, he chose to be a union carpenter. He’s very good at what he does, but he faces many of the same issues I do with playing the politics game. Like me he’s terrible at it and knows it – and he also tends to shoot off his big mouth a lot like I do. We are definitely cut from the same cloth.

That’s likely what makes him so funny. He’s sick, twisted, vicious and unrelenting – and that’s a sincere compliment. Funny just flows through his veins, and no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other we can pick it up from where we left off and get each other going again.

There is no human nor animal on this planet that can make me laugh out loud harder than Brett. Nobody. He knows my buttons, and when he hits one he will not stop. He often makes me laugh so hard I think I’m going to suffocate from a lack of oxygen – but afterward I feel SO cleansed.

That’s what happened tonight as I drove to Milwaukee to have dinner with Brett. We try to get together once a month if we can, but sometimes we’ll miss. We both happened to be off tonight, so we enjoyed a rack of ribs at Famous Dave’s which is one of our favorite spots and caught up.

Brett and his father had about the same relationship me and mine did, and we have all kinds of similar issues about it. We were around each other growing up a lot more than I ever was with all of my siblings, so Brett is basically the younger brother I never had. I can’t call him little, as he’s about 6’4” with size 14 shoes. He could twist my head of like a bottle cap, but he never would.

Like my brother Larry, Brett is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He’s constantly giving of himself – and constantly getting taken advantage of. I think it goes with the territory, but it’s a part of who he is just like it is with Larry and me. We’re givers, and that’s what we do. Period.

I get to enjoy Brett’s dark and warped sense of humor all to myself, and it’s more precious than gold to me. I hope I have had that effect on others, onstage and off. It feels SO good to laugh that hard, and he’s the only one I can think of that can make me do it consistently. Now that’s a gift.

Who is the funniest person you know personally? It may not be a professional comedian.

Who is the funniest person you can think of? It may – or may not – be a comedian. For me it’s my cousin Brett. He cracks me up.

A Lion’s Share

February 6, 2014

Saturday February 1st, 2014 – Kalida, OH

Last week I was in Woodburn, IN. Tonight it was Kalida, OH. Three weeks ago I’d never even heard of either of those towns, and I was pretty good in geography class in my day. These are not places I ever intended to go, but after being there I’m glad I went. The laughter made it worth it.

It didn’t hurt that there was a paycheck involved either. Both these shows were fundraisers for worthy causes, and at the end of each night everyone was a winner. I’d do shows like these every single night of the year if they’d let me, but it’s not that easy. There’s a lot behind the scenes that needs to get done before any show can happen, and the last two weeks it was all done correctly.

Tonight we did a fundraiser for the Lions Club of Kalida. Apparently they’ve been doing them for ten years, and have been using comedians the whole time. I don’t know how they’d found out about Tim Walkoe, but I’m glad they did. Tim asked me to do it with him, and it made for one of the strongest lineups I can think of for any show. We’re both solid headliners, and we kicked ass.

The people in charge knew it too, and they were beside themselves with delight after the show. I knew we’d deliver, and they said it was the best show they’d ever had. Of course it was, but we both sacrificed decades of our lives to get to the point of being able to do it. They got a bargain at whatever price they paid, as getting one much less two acts like us in one night was a super buy.

Tim and I talked about it on the way back to the hotel. Not many acts of any sort would be able to pull off a red hot show like this no matter what they’re called. Most ‘comedians’ would be far too dirty, and most ‘humorists’ wouldn’t be able to get consistent laughs all evening like we did.

We both knew exactly what to do, as we’ve been at it for so long. This was a diverse group and not an easy read. There were ages ranging from 20s to 70s, and it takes a seasoned pro to pull off a show that makes them all laugh. Everyone might not get every single joke, but at the end of the night everyone had a great time. Nobody knew how much work went into it, and nobody cared.

It wasn’t their job to care. All they had to do was show up and have fun – and they did. It was a super deal with a dinner/show package that featured an all-you-can-eat steak dinner plus as much beer as you could drink. Normally that would be a giant red flag, but it ended up working well.

There weren’t any issues with drunken heckling, and in fact they were an excellent audience. It was a pleasure to perform for such a well behaved and attentive crowd, and they were all there to support the cause and laugh. Whatever the people who ran it did, they hit it all right on the head.

They got the word out with the town and surrounding areas, and I didn’t see an open seat in the whole place. I’d estimate there were probably 400 people in the Lions Club, and they brought in a very good sound system too. We had the tools we needed, and we knew what to do with them.

This was a home run from every angle. I have to believe there are groups like this in thousands of towns like this I’ve never heard of – and many more that I have. Getting people to set them up as well as this one was and last week in Woodburn, IN is a different story. They all did their jobs and it made ours easy. It isn’t like this every week, but for the last two it’s been comedy heaven.

I had never heard of Kalida, OH before last night. I'm glad I did. What nice people live there.

I had never heard of Kalida, OH before last night. I’m glad I did. What nice people live there.

Tim Walkoe and I did a comedy fundraiser for a packed house. It benefitted the local Lion's Club.

Tim Walkoe and I did a comedy fundraiser for a packed house. It benefited their local Lions Club.

The Sweetest Sound

December 5, 2012

Tuesday December 4th, 2012 – Gurnee, IL

   One of the few sounds I never get sick of hearing is laughter. I find it sweeter than any music -and I like music. But no song I’ve ever heard comes close to the melody of a solid laugh from an enthusiastic audience full of strangers. It has a cleansing effect right down to the core of the soul.

Even sweeter than that is the unbridled laughter of children. I first became addicted to hearing audiences laugh in grade school, and it hasn’t stopped. I have always had the ability to crack off a funny one liner or a smart ass comeback with little effort, and more often than not I’ll let it fly.

I used to get in all kinds of trouble for it in school, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Life was one big sitcom, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to get a laugh pass me by. It drove some of my teachers up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other wall but too bad. I was hooked.

It started with my grandfather. He was by far the funniest person I knew as a kid, and he loved to get laughs from anywhere and anyone he could. I happened to be an appreciative audience, so he’d put extra effort into making me laugh as often as he could. I will always love him for that.

Gramps wasn’t afraid to do it in public, and anyone walking the earth was a possible partner in his comedic endeavors from sales clerks to bus drivers to my friends. My grandmother could not stand it, and I guess that’s what made him want to do it more. I loved it, so he aimed it my way.

If nothing else, it taught me how to think out of the box. Gramps would be fearless when he’d jump into a character in a restaurant or a grocery store, and he’d often toss it to me to see if I had a comeback. Sometimes I would and sometimes I wouldn’t, but I learned to be ready at any time.

It also taught me to not worry if something didn’t work. Sometimes Gramps would take it a bit too far, and people would just stare at him. I think he had a little Andy Kaufman in him, as that’s when he’d do it more. He just wanted to have the spotlight, and embarrassment wasn’t an issue.

What made me think of all this today was having lunch at the Golden Corral in Gurnee, IL, one of my regular hangouts. I can get a good salad at a good price, and it’s buffet style so I can get as much as I want. It’s a sweet deal, and it usually comes with a floor show of oddballs to observe.

There happened to be a group of a dozen or so kids there today between the ages of maybe 4 to 7 – a perfect scenario for getting big laughs. There were a few adults with them, but they were in deep conversation at their end of the table. One of the kids sneezed and sprayed in my direction.

I exaggerated my reaction and covered my plate and that’s all that it took to get them started. It was show time after that. It was the right day and the right time, and I had them all in the palm of my hand the rest of the meal. I could do no wrong, and their laughter was deep, loud and sincere.

Gramps would have been proud of the way I worked those kids today. I didn’t let up. I had the whole table giggling incessantly, and I’m sure they talked about it in the car. These moments are what life is about. It was a table of kids at The Golden Corral, but I felt like a comedy superstar.